U.S. appeals court strikes down Florida law in ‘Docs v. Glocks’ case

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By Brendan Pierson

<span class="articleLocation”>A U.S. appeals court on Thursday struck down a
Florida law that barred doctors from asking patients about gun
ownership, ruling that the law violated doctors’ right to free
speech.

The decision, from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Atlanta, reverses an earlier decision in the so-called “Docs v.
Glocks” case by a three-judge panel of that court upholding the
law.

The Florida attorney general’s office and an attorney
representing the doctors challenging the law could not
immediately be reached for comment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which filed a
friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a group of medical and
child welfare organizations opposing the law, praised the
decision.

“We are thrilled that the court has finally put to bed the
nonsensical and dangerous idea that a doctor speaking with a
patient about gun safety somehow threatens the right to own a
gun,” ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said in a
news release.

The so-called Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, passed in 2011
by Florida’s Republican-led legislature, says that doctors can
ask patients whether they own guns only if they have reason to
believe in “good faith” that the information is medically
relevant.

It was passed in response to several accounts from Florida
residents of doctors refusing to provide care if they did not
answer questions about their gun ownership.

Doctors who violate the law faced penalties including fines
and permanent revocation of their medical licenses.

Doctors opposing the law have said they ask about gun
ownership as a normal part of screening new patients, along with
questions about drug and alcohol use, smoking, exercise and
eating habits.

Soon after the law was passed, individual doctors and
medical associations challenged it in court, arguing it violated
their right to free speech under the First Amendment of the
Constitution.

A federal judge agreed, ruling the law unconstitutional in
2012, and the state appealed.

A 2-1 panel of the 11th Circuit reversed that decision in
July 2014, saying the law was a “legitimate regulation” of the
medical profession intended to promote good medical care.

But the full 11th Circuit reversed that ruling 10-1, finding
the state had not shown any valid reason for restricting
doctors’ speech.

The court did uphold one part of the law, which bars doctors
from discriminating against patients solely because they own
guns.



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