Court: Banning Doctors From Asking About Firearm Ownership Violates First Amendment

Connor Moldo | Reporting Intern

In an 8-3 vote last Thursday, a federal appeals court decided that it’s a direct violation of the First Amendment to prohibit medical professionals from asking their patients about gun ownership, according to the Miami Herald.

The ruling comes in response to an effort by activists to abolish the “docs. vs. Glocks” law, which permitted medical examiners to ask patients about gun ownership only in instances of “legitimate safety concern,” The Atlantic said.

The law, which was backed by the National Rife Association, has become a heavily debated topic in Florida, dividing advocates of the Second Amendment and those fighting for free speech.

Jonathan Lowy, an attorney for the case and director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s Legal Action Project, says “this is a hugely important victory for the First Amendment, for the rights of doctors and perhaps most importantly, the patients and families who are trying to protect themselves from guns in the home.”

The decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refuted a previous ruling that maintained Florida’s gun law, but the ruling can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2011, Florida enacted the Firearm Privacy Owner’s Act following an incident where a doctor asked a couple whether or not they owned guns, and they did not answer. Unless knowledge about an individual’s gun ownership is vital to medical needs, the law prevented doctors from asking patients about this personal information.

The measure also aimed to forbid doctors from including gun ownership in medical records as many speculated this would lead to discrimination in the medical field. The law was reversed in a 2014 decision with Judge Adalberto Jordan arguing “there was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patient’ Second Amendment rights.”

Attorney Doug Hallward-Driemeie was relieved by the decision, noting the decision was “critical to the health and safety of Florida families.”

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