Fla. Panel Passes "Don't Ask" Gun Bill

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida Email
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida Email

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, March 8, 2011 --

Doctors would be barred from asking most of their patients if they own guns under a measure that passed in a House panel on Tuesday after it was amended in response to doctors’ concerns – though not enough to win over the medical establishment.

By a 9-6 vote, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee approved a National Rifle Association-backed bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford. The proposal would bar physicians, nurses and other medical personnel in non-emergency settings from asking patients if there are guns in the home, a query backers say oversteps a physician’s authority and infringes on Second Amendment gun rights.

Vehemently opposed by the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Pediatric Society and other medical groups, the bill that originally banned any questions about gun ownership was amended Tuesday to allow medical providers in certain cases to ask about guns, an effort to address concerns of committee members who normally side with the doctors.

“This bill is about taking politics, pure politics, out of the examining room,” Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the NRA and other gun righs groups, told the committee before the vote.

The bill is being sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Crestview. A constituent in Evers’ district complained when a physician refused to treat her after she wouldn’t say if the family had guns in the home. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said constituents in his district also complained of being dropped by their physician when they declined to answer a question about whether they owned a gun.

Such altercations, however, should not be used as a justification to establish such a prohibition in Florida law, said Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, who voted against the measure and said it will cost lives.

“If this is major problem, we would have heard about it in our communities,” Thurston said. “For me it’s a no brainer. … This bill creates a situation where the doctor is unable to ask a question.”

The amended version of the bill would now allow physicians to ask patients about gun ownership if they believe the the patient or another person is in imminent danger. The question could also be asked during a medical emergency. In those cases, practitioners would be allowed to enter the information into the medical record.

The bill is also now less punitive than the original version, which made it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5 million fine.

Physicians groups vowed to fight the bill vigorously as it move forward, saying Florida already has a tough time recruiting doctors.

“It really makes Florida out to be a laughingstock and the FMA will work hard to make sure that this bad public policy does not become law,” FMA executive vice president Timothy Stapleton said in a statement after the vote. “Frankly, it is disrespectful and insulting to the good doctors of our state who want nothing more than to help their patients."


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