Court strikes down Fla. law banning doctors from asking patients about guns

 Court strikes down Fla. law banning doctors from asking patients about guns
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A federal appeals court struck down a Florida law this week that forbids doctors from talking with patients about owning a gun.

A full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit unanimously ruled that the 2011 law violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

“Despite its majestic brevity—or maybe because of it—the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment sometimes proves difficult to apply,” Judge Adalberto Jordan wrote in one of two majority opinions.

“Yet certain First Amendment principles can be applied with reasonable consistency, and one of them is that, subject to limited exceptions, content-based regulations of speech are presumptively invalid.”

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Florida officials claimed the Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act was needed to protect Floridians’ Second Amendment right to own firearms.

The court, however, found that the law’s provisions prohibiting doctors from asking patients if they own a gun, from disclosing information about gun ownership in patient medical records and unnecessarily harassing patients about gun ownership violated doctors’ free speech rights.

The court said only the law’s provision prohibiting doctors from discriminating against patients solely for owning a gun was valid.

In an effort to prevent and reduce firearm-related deaths and injuries, particularly to children, the American Medical Association (AMA) “encourages its members to inquire as to the presence of household firearms as a part of childproofing the home and to educate patients to the dangers of firearms to children,” a policy similarly followed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians, according to court documents.

In a statement Friday, AMA President Andrew Gurman called Thursday’s decisions a “clear victory against censorship of private medical discussions between patients and physicians.”