The 10-1 en banc ruling that struck down Florida’s Privacy of Firearm Owners Act seems like a stunning loss for the Second Amendment. In one sense, it is, given that it means that gun owners may have some hard decisions to make. But in this case, Second Amendment supporters may have been saved from themselves.
The first thing to understand is that of the 11 judges ruling on the case, eight were appointed by either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. One was appointed by Gerald Ford, who left office in January 1977 (a reminder of why judicial nominations matter), one was appointed by George H.W. Bush, and one, William Pryor – a member of Donald Trump’s “short list” for the Scalia seat going to Neil Gorsuch – was appointed by George W. Bush. Gerald Tjoflet, the Ford appointee, was the only dissenter in the case.
What it came down to was that a couple was dropped by their doctor for refusing to answer questions about firearms ownership. There was a reason for some suspicion. A 1993 Baltimore Sun article quoted Joyner Sims of the Florida State Health Department as saying, “The goal is an ultimate ban on all guns, but we also have to take a step at a time and go for limited access first.”
Dr. Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, founder of the Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan (HELP) Network, once wrote to Dr. Edgar Suter, “The HELP Network will use a public health model to work toward changing society’s attitude toward guns so that it becomes socially unacceptable for private citizens to have handguns.” She went on to add, “Your organization clearly does not share these beliefs, and, therefore, does not meet the criteria for attendance at the meeting.”
Let’s be very honest – the medical journals your doctor and pediatrician read have been full of anti-gun propaganda for years. They probably will be in the future. While the CDC doesn’t fund anti-gun research, you will find that many foundations do. As Robert Farago noted in January 2016, groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics are openly pushing doctors to advise their patients to not exercise their Second Amendment rights. In essence, the trust you are placing in your doctor, or your child’s pediatrician is being abused.
So, yeah, the threat is present. It’s worse because doctors are people we trust with our health. In the day and age where, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” and “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” have proven to be empty promises, finding a new doctor that takes your insurance is likely to be a difficult process – and that doesn’t go into the logistics of switching doctors. Furthermore, when we hear a doctor drops a patient who won’t discuss whether they own guns, the question comes up, “Will my doctor do that to me?”
The problem is that in trying to protect the privacy of gun owners – a very laudable and strategically important goal – the Florida Legislature crossed the line into infringing the First Amendment. The lesson here is that we always need to take a deep breath, and think over how we should react. In this case, Clinton and Obama judges played a large part in saving us from ourselves, but it would be far better to not trust judges nominated by Presidents hostile to our right to keep and bear arms.