TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida law that restricts doctors from discussing gun ownership with their patients is a “legitimate regulation of professional conduct,” a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.
The Firearm Owners Privacy Act prohibited doctors from asking patients about their ownership or recording that information in medical records unless it was medically necessary. The law that passed in 2011 was declared unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, who agreed with doctors and gun control advocates that it violated the free speech rights of Florida physicians.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned that decision. A federal judge in Miami had also blocked the state from enforcing the law.
The law, which had become popularly known as “Docs vs. Glocks,” was challenged by organizations representing 11,000 state health providers, including the Florida chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians
Doctors who break the law could potentially be fined and lose their licenses.
By a 2-1 decision, the appeals court upheld the law and said that the limits imposed by it were “incidental.”
“The act simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care,” states the opinion written by U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Tjoflat.
In a lengthy dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Charles Wilson called the law an infringement of First Amendment rights.
“The act prohibits or significantly chills doctors from expressing their views and providing information to patients about one topic, and one topic only, firearms,” Wilson wrote. “Regardless of whether we agreed with the message conveyed by doctors to patients about firearms, I think it is perfectly clear that doctors have a First Amendment right to convey that message.”