Florida Governor Appeals Ruling On Law Barring Doctors From Asking About Guns

By: - July 31, 2012 12:00 am

Governor Rick Scott has appealed a court ruling that blocked a Florida law prohibiting doctors from asking patients about guns, he announced Monday (July 30).

“This law was carefully crafted to respect the First Amendment while ensuring a patient’s constitutional right to own or possess a firearm without discrimination,” he said in a statement Monday. “I signed this legislation into law because I believe it is constitutional, and I will continue to defend it.”

Scott said the Florida Department of Health filed an appeal.

Last month, a federal judge issued an injunction against the state’s “Firearm Owners Privacy Act,” an NRA-backed law enacted in 2011 that barred physicians from “making a written inquiry or asking questions concerning the ownership of a firearm or ammunition by the patient or by a family member of the patient,” actions that might discourage gun ownership, according to the law’s supporters. Doctors who violated the statute could be punished by the state.

According to its backers, the need for the act was spurred by a case in Ocala, Florida, in which a doctor threatened to stop treating a young patient whose mother refused to answer questions about guns in her home.

Shortly after Scott signed the law, several physician groups sued the state, saying it’s common in preventative medicine to counsel patients about many types of safety risks, such as household chemicals, swimming pools, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and firearms. Many physicians said the rule interfered with the doctor-patient relationship and eroded care.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke halted the act’s implementation, writing that it violated the First Amendment rights of doctors and the rights of patients to receive information about firearms.

“Despite the State’s insistence that the right to “keep arms” is the primary constitutional right at issue in this litigation, a plain reading of the statute reveals that this law in no way affects such rights,” she wrote in her injunction.

“The legislative debates on this bill reveal that the legislature relied heavily on anecdotal information,” she wrote. “It does not appear that the Florida legislature relied on any studies, research, or statistics on physicians’ practices or patients’ experiences on this issue.”

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