Doctors in the Sunshine State can now freely ask whether their patients own guns in their home after a federal appeals court struck down the law on Thursday -- and gun rights groups haven’t been passive in expressing their dissatisfaction over the ruling.
In 2011, the Florida legislature created the “Docs vs. Glocks” law, which effectively barred doctors and physicians from asking questions about their patients’ gun ownership unless it was medically relevant. Under the law, patients could also report whether a doctor was “harassing” them for gun ownership.
The law immediately became controversial and doctors swiftly took it to court.
Six years later, court judges ruled the law infringed upon doctors’ First Amendment rights in a 10-1 ruling.
“There was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights,” wrote Judge Adalberto J. Jordan in the court opinion.
Pro-gun groups are less than pleased with the ruling, saying the decision has grave implications for Second Amendment rights in the Sunshine State.
“This activist decision attempts to use the First Amendment as a sword to terrorize the Second Amendment and completely disregards the rights and the will of the elected representatives of the people of Florida,” said NRA past president and current lobbyist Marion Hammer.
Hammer slammed the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for siding with the doctors in the case, but said there were some perks. The longtime gun rights advocate pointed out the court left some provisions of the law intact allowing patients to refuse to answer doctors’ questions about gun ownership.
“I’m sure doctors are not happy about that,” Hammer said.
Gun safety groups applauded the decision, reveling in the loss, declaring it a victory in a “life-or-death” situation affecting families in Florida.
“This decision is a sharp rebuke for the NRA leadership, which has long sought to suppress research funding, data and speech – and in this case, to gag doctors by barring them from discussing gun safety with their patients,” said president of Everytown for Gun Safety John Feinblatt. “It is now plainly clear: Physicians do not leave their free speech rights at the clinic door. Doctors can – and should – talk to their patients about responsible gun ownership and the risks that come with having unsecured guns in the home, just as they would with any other safety concern.”
Hammer criticized the ruling, saying the power to regulate the profession rests with the state Legislature.
“Doctors are businessmen, not gods,” Hammer said. “This Court treats gun owners as second-class citizens.”