By David Codrea
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership issued an advisory statement Tuesday detailing its concerns with a legal setback for supporters of Florida’s Firearms Owners Privacy Act (FOPA). A ruling last Thursday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit will allow doctors taking their lead from anti-gun professional organizations to dispense unqualified advice and discourage patients from gun ownership.
“The opinion striking down key provisions of the law was the latest ruling in a legal challenge to the so-called ‘Docs vs. Glocks’ law,” the Miami Herald reported the day of the decision. “The law quickly became a heated ideological battle pitting gun-rights groups against advocates of free-speech and firearms control.”
That’s a common claim that DRGO rejects in its statement on the ruling:
“FOPA … forbids physicians from pressing patients to give up their firearms or otherwise propagandize using the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors can be seen as authoritative in any pronouncements that sound health-related, so using that influence to promote giving up an enumerated Constitutional right when they generally have little or no training in firearm use or safety constitutes inappropriate ethical behavior. FOPA also precluded routine documentation of gun ownership, which is a worry of many firearm owners who wish no one to know these private matters.”
That hardly seems controversial. Doctors have no right to abuse a professional relationship by imposing their biases, offering unqualified prescriptions and intruding on patient privacy. And on the flip side:
“FOPA explicitly permitted doctors to inquire about firearm possession when it is relevant to patients’ care, such as when there is concern for the safety of patients or others should someone unstable have access to a gun. It also did not prevent any physician from providing patients with general information about firearms, whether we’d agree with it or not. So there was never any true inhibition of physicians’ rights to advise patients as they wish. FOPA just limited their ability to target gun owners 1:1 in the exam room, where the pressure can be strongest.”
“When professional medical organizations are on record saying their aims are to reduce firearms ownership, we cannot trust their guidance to be objective or impartial,” DRGO elaborated in response to a request for more information:
“The ruling gives uninformed, anti-gun doctors legal cover to abuse the doctor-patient relationship. It allows doctors to badger and misinform patients while claiming to be supported by ‘research’ (much of which is bogus and long-debunked) thereby influencing the exercise of Second Amendment rights by potentially thousands of individuals and inappropriately swaying public opinion. A multitude of doctors engaging in such disinformation is tantamount to nation-wide subversion of a fundamental and Constitutionally-protected right.”
There’s good reason to arrive at such conclusions and challenge motives, as DRGO founder and former director Timothy Wheeler, MD, noted in his landmark 1999 editorial, “Boundary Violations — Gun Politics in the Doctor's Office”:
“The AAP, ACP, and AMA are members of the Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan (HELP) Network, based in Chicago. HELP is an exclusive advocacy group dedicated to banning guns. Physicians who disagree with HELP's anti-gun agenda are barred from attending HELP's conferences, a policy unthinkable in any scientific organization. HELP's founder and leader Dr. Katherine Christoffel has compared guns to viruses that must be eradicated. The group's militant advocacy has no place for differing viewpoints on firearms, and apparently neither do the medical organizations which have signed on as HELP members.
“In fact, the AAP has adopted its ‘gun safety instruction' patient materials from the gun-ban lobby Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI). The AAP and Handgun Control, Inc.'s informational wing the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence advise families in their STOP pamphlet, ‘The safest thing is to not have a gun in your home, especially not a handgun.' And a survey of pediatricians showed 76 percent supported a ban on handguns. Patients who seek objective advice on firearm safety should not look to pediatricians as a group. And any doctor should know that patient counseling based on these materials is politics, not medicine.”
“The one good thing about it is that the Court affirmed that patients have a right to treatment regardless of what their doctors think of their conflicting views about guns, and can't use that as a reason to discharge them from care,” DRGO told AmmoLand Shooting Sports News in an addendum to its email statement. Some doctors prejudiced against gun ownership actually retaliated by threatening not to treat patients who balked at answering their demands.
Physicians have remarkable training to be able to do what they do. That does not make them experts in everything, and there are plenty of areas where doctors can be ignorant and as fallible. That means they can be biased.
So can judges and those who appoint and confirm them. A quick look at the Eleventh Circuit shows five of the justices were appointed by Obama, three by Clinton, one by Ford, one by George HW Bush and one by GW. Of significance to current concerns over federal court nominees, all were confirmed by the Senate with Republican, consensus, support and at times, even praise, and as recent history clearly demonstrates that doesn’t always work out.
Will an appeal of the Eleventh Circuit decision ultimately make its way up to SCOTUS on appeal, and if it does, is there any basis for speculating on its likely outcome?
“This is not necessarily the final judgment on FOPA,” DRGO concludes. “The State of Florida has the option now to appeal to the Supreme Court, though given the current state of SCOTUS and the rarity of its accepting appeals, there are reasons for and against that. DRGO will continue advocating for gun owners in such cases. The work we and our colleagues did in this case may yet prove useful in the future in this or other cases like it.”
On a related note, albeit not part of DRGO’s efforts, the court’s decision has increased incentives for patients to utilize a response I’ve been promoting for years. Working with the late Joe Horn, a retired Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy and risk management consultant, I developed a “Physician Qualification and Liability Form” based on his essay “Don't Borrow Trouble” and its follow-on, Part II.
The form asks doctors presuming to advise on guns to attest they have reviewed applicable scientific literature pertaining to defensive gun use and beneficial results of private firearms ownership. If they can't, it asks them to admit they are knowingly engaging in home/firearms safety counseling without certification, license or formal training in risk management, and that they have not reviewed applicable scientific literature pertaining to defensive gun use and beneficial results of private firearms ownership.
It also asks those physicians to disclose if they are engaged in an activity for which they are not certified, such as Firearms Safety Counseling, and if their medical malpractice insurance carrier will cover lawsuits resulting from neglect and lack of qualification. And it further asks them to attest that, should a patient follow firearm safety counseling and remove from the home and/or disable firearms with trigger locks or other mechanisms, and if the patient or a family member, friend or visitor is subsequently injured or killed as a result of said removal or disabling, that their malpractice insurance and/or personal assets will cover all actual and punitive damages resulting from a lawsuit initiated by the patient, the patient's legal representative, or the patient's survivors.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament.
In addition to being a field editor/columnist at GUNS Magazine and associate editor for Oath Keepers, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.