On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that Florida doctors do not have the right to inquire about whether a patient owns or has access to a firearm when it’s not relevant to a patient’s health and well-being, upsetting Bloomberg’s pro-gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety.
The ruling upheld a 2011 bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, which had been subsequently challenged in court by pro-gun control organizations and the Florida chapters of the American Academies of Pediatrics and American College of Physicians.
“In keeping with these traditional codes of conduct—which almost universally mandate respect for patient privacy—the Act simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters,” wrote the three-judge panel.
“As such, we find that the Act is a legitimate regulation of professional conduct,” the panel continued. “The Act simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care.”
The NRA, which supported the bill, celebrated the ruling in what’s been dubbed the ‘Docs vs. Glocks’ case. Chris Cox, the chief lobbyist for the NRA-ILA, stated, “Every gun owner in Florida and across the country is grateful for this common sense ruling. It is not a physician’s business whether his or her patient chooses to exercise their fundamental, individual right to own a firearm.”
Meanwhile, Everytown for Gun Safety viewed the ruling as an attack on the First Amendment rights of physicians.
“This decision by two of three judges on the 11th Circuit panel is out of step with well-established First Amendment law and an affront to reasonable public policy,” said Erika Soto Lamb, the group’s communications director, in an email to GunsAmerica.
“Despite scientific evidence showing that patients whose doctors counsel them on responsible gun storage are more likely to store their guns safely — and out of the reach of curious children — Florida’s law would subject pediatricians who counsel parents about responsible gun ownership to onerous penalties, including possible loss of their licenses,” she continued.
“The lengthy and well-reasoned dissent from the well-respected third member of the panel, Judge Wilson, clearly explains the numerous errors in the majority’s reasoning. Florida doctors should be able to speak to their patients about their health — including gun safety,” Lamb concluded.
American Academies of Pediatrics and American College of Physicians are now contemplating their next legal move, essentially whether they will appeal the ruling and continue the fight.