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[UPDATE] Gun Bills Pass Senate, Head to Gov. Scott

By: Lilly Rockwell, The News Service of Florida; AP
By: Lilly Rockwell, The News Service of Florida; AP

[UPDATE] 4-29 9:15am -

The Florida Senate on Thursday sent Gov. Rick Scott a pair of National Rifle Association-backed measures including a proposal to encourage doctors not to ask patients if they have guns in their homes.

With super-majorities in both chambers, the Republican-dominated Legislature sent Scott another NRA-backed gun bill (HB 45) that would punish local officials who consciously enact ordinances that are stricter than statewide standards.

“It’s very important that all of our constitutional amendments are protected,” said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
Backers say the measures are attempts to solidify constitutional protections and prevent physicians from prying into law abiding people’s business with questions about guns.

Critics say the measures taken together overstep the protections guaranteed by the Second Amendment and instead will put local officials, physicians and patients at risk.

The first measure (HB 155) would prevent physicians and other health care providers from asking patients if they own guns and have them in their homes, unless they believe it is medically necessary to do so. The question could no longer be part of a routine patient survey.

“Whether I own a gun is none of their business,” Negron said.

The Florida Medical Association signed off on the bill, which was changed to remove criminal penalties and specifically allow physicians to ask about gun ownership in certain cases. The bill passed the Senate Thursday on a 27-12 vote.

Critics, including the Florida Pediatric Society, countered that physicians routinely inquire about pools, dangerous chemicals and other safety issues, particularly with children. Inquiring about gun ownership falls in that category.

“This bill has a chilling effect on the doctor patient relationship,” said Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston. ”It’s the duty of the physician to ask all the questions they possible can and the patient should be as honest as they possibly can.”

The second measure (HB 45) would punish local officials who “knowingly and willingly” pass local gun ordinances that are stricter than state statute allows. Public officials taken to court would have to pay their own attorney fees if they lose. The bill passed 30-8.

“This not only puts teeth in the law but a gun to the heads of local officials, pun intended,” said Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, an opponent.

Other bills are still traveling through the process, including a proposal to prevent people with concealed weapons permits from being charged with crimes if the firearm accidentally is exposed. The bill (SB 234) originally allowed concealed weapons permit holders to openly carry their weapons. It was amended to remove the open carry provision and passed the Senate Thursday. That bill initially also would have allowed people to carry guns on college campuses, but that provision was also removed. That bill now travels to the House after a 26-11 Senate vote.

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[UPDATE] 4-28

American Academy of Pediatrics Release

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) joins the Florida Pediatric Society and other physicians and medical professionals in expressing grave concern over the Florida Legislature’s passage of a bill to restrict the ability of pediatricians to ask patients and parents simple counseling questions about gun safety without fear of sanctions from the state medical board. The bill awaits the signature of Governor Rick Scott.

The bill will limit pediatricians’ capacity to do what they do best – compassionately and effectively help families care for their children.

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in children older than 1 year. Pediatricians play a key role in injury prevention by providing anticipatory guidance to parents during office visits to lower the risk of injury in the child’s everyday environment. During these visits, several aspects of the patient’s home are discussed, including swimming pools, hazardous chemicals, smoke detectors, medications and firearms. These conversations help pediatricians and other physicians to partner with parents to keep their children safe.

In addition, pediatricians are often the first medical professionals to identify children, teenagers, and young adults with depression or other mental health issues, as well as those vulnerable to abuse. The presence of a firearm in a home increases the risk of suicide even among those without a previous psychiatric diagnosis. The increased risk of suicide is particularly striking for younger people in homes where guns are stored either loaded or unlocked.

“The patient-physician relationship is a confidential one,” said AAP President O. Marion Burton, MD, FAAP. “This bill is a harmful, unnecessary, and unprecedented government intrusion into the patient-physician relationship. Restricting the type of conversations that physicians can have with patients not only violates physician professional standards and clearly flies in the face of our First Amendment rights to free speech, but gravely threatens the health and well-being of patients. Similar legislation has already been proposed in other states, and we urge leaders in Alabama, North Carolina and elsewhere to reject these bills outright.

“Nearly every day we hear tragic stories about firearm injuries that could have been prevented by a simple conversation between a physician and a patient,” Dr. Burton said. “Limiting these conversations will only increase the number of these tragedies.”

The AAP calls on Florida’s governor to veto this legislation and to protect children from needless injuries and deaths by maintaining a strong physician-patient-family relationship.

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[UPDATE] 4-28 10:45am - TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) --

The Florida Senate has approved a trio of guns bills that expand citizens' guns rights.

All were approved along party-line votes on Thursday. One
decriminalizes the accidental showing of a concealed weapon. A
person with a concealed weapon permit now could be charged with a
third-degree misdemeanor for inadvertently showing his or her
weapon.

Another measure restricts doctors asking patients about gun
ownership. A group of pediatricians had opposed that bill because
they said it would interfere with patient care.

The third bill prohibits municipalities from passing stricter
gun laws than the state.

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[UPDATE] 4-28 10:30am -

The Senate is poised to pass three bills that help gun owners, though all were softened from their original versions. One (SB 234) make it no longer a crime to accidentally show a gun that is supposed to be concealed. This bill was ultimately weakened from its original version, which would have permitted concealed gun owners to openly carry guns in stores and college campuses. Another measure (SB 402) applies penalties to an existing state law that prohibits cities and counties from passing stricter gun laws than the state, though it softens the financial penalties city and county commissioners might face to $5,000 rather than $100,000. A third bill (SB 432) limits when a doctor is allowed to ask a patient about gun ownership. This bill was a compromise between the National Rifle Association and the Florida Medical Association. It originally penalized doctors for ever asking the question. It now allows doctors to ask about gun ownership in certain circumstances. The bill sponsor said doctors should lecture about gun safety but don't need to know about gun ownership. “They don’t need to know if I own a firearm and where I keep my ammunition,” said Sen. Greg Evers, R-Crestview. Senate Democrats pointed out that SB 432 is still opposed by pediatricians, who feel asking parents questions about safety precautions in their home is an important part of their job. All of the bills are set for Senate approval Thursday.

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Tallahassee, FL (AP) - The Florida House has approved a bill
that would restrict what kind of conversations doctors can have
with patients about guns in the home.

The bill (HB 155) was passed by a party-line vote of 88-30. It
now goes to the Senate, where it has a companion measure (SB 432).

The House bill was touted as a compromise between the National
Rifle Association and the Florida Medical Association. A group of
pediatricians still opposes the measure and say it intrudes on the
doctor-patient relationship.

The bill would allow doctors to ask about guns in the home only
if a good-faith concern exists that there is a health or safety
threat involved.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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