[UPDATE] Group Says It Will Sue Over Docs vs Guns Bill

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida; AP
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida; AP

[UPATE] June 24, 2011 --

Miami, FL (AP) - Thousands of Florida doctors and an anti-gun
violence group want a Miami federal judge to immediately block
enforcement of a new state law barring physicians from discussing
firearms with patients.

Court papers filed Friday say the law should be blocked
temporarily until a permanent decision is made on whether it's
constitutional. The doctors say the law violates free speech rights
and could result in harm to patients.

Supporters of the law say it will protect patients' privacy and
their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The law took effect June

The motion for a temporary injunction blocking the law was filed
on behalf of 11,000 doctors and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun

U.S District Judge Marcia Cooke issued no immediate decision.
The state will respond in court.


Tallahassee, FL - Attorneys representing a trio of physicians group’s told Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday they will sue if the governor signs into law a measure that will prohibit physicians from asking many patients if they own guns.

In a last ditch effort to scuttle the bill that now sits on Scott’s desk, attorneys representing pediatricians, family practitioners and others called on the governor to veto the measure (HB 155), which they contend unconstitutionally bans discussions between patients and their practitioners who would face sanctions for asking patients if there are guns in their homes, without a direct belief that the inquiry would be relevant to the patient’s safety or health.

“Despite the critical importance of ensuring free and open exchange of information between a healthcare professional and his or her patient, (the bill) would significantly restrict the ability of health care professionals to talk to their patients about firearm safety,” attorney Bruce Manheim wrote in a letter to Scott on behalf of the Florida Chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Practitioners and the American College of Physicians.

Another major doctors’ group, the Florida Medical Association, doesn’t oppose the bill.

With a little more than a week remaining before Scott must take action, combatants are ramping up efforts to sway the governor on a measure that has pitted traditional Republican allies –gun rights activists and physicians – against one another over how closely doctors can probe into patients’ gun ownership.

Backers of the bill say some healthcare practitioners are using examinations to push anti-gun messages to their patients under the guise of a home safety questionnaire. They say the measure was prompted by complaints from gun owners following an incident this summer in which an Ocala area physician told a couple to find a new pediatrician after they refused to answer questions about whether they had guns in their home and how they were stored.

Critics of the bill say doctors, nurses and other practitioners typically ask patients, especially those with children, a host of questions relating to home safety including whether the patient has a backyard pool or how poisons are stored. Asking about the presence of a firearm is a natural extension of that query.

Marion Hammer, past-president of the National Rifle Association, and the most prominent gun rights lobbyist in Florida, doesn’t buy the argument and has urged members to contact lawmakers and the governor’s office to ensure passage of the bill. Hammer, who testified repeatedly on this and other gun-related issues during the 2011 session, said that unlike pool ownership or a closet full of drain cleaner, gun ownership is a constitutionally protected right.

“As parents, we are responsible for our children's safety. We don't need doctors pushing their anti-gun politics on us or our children,” Hammer wrote in an email to members of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida. “We need them to spend their time practicing medicine and not prying into our personal lives on issues that have nothing to do with disease, its cure, or its eradication.”

The bill originally included stiff criminal and civil penalties for practitioners who overstepped their authority. Prompted by criticism from the FMA and others, it was modified to remove the severe sanctions and allow physicians to ask such questions if they believe it is in the medical best interest of their patients. Such changes prompted the FMAs to withdraw its opposition to the bill. When contacted Thursday, the FMA declined comment.

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  • by Steve Location: Tallahassee on Jun 26, 2011 at 07:50 PM
    Doctors have no business asking any question about guns, unless someone happens to come in with a gun shot wound. This is stricktly liberals trying to run your life. If you don't like guns fine, but just because someone has a gun, it doesn't mean they are violent. Maybe if the liberals quit letting illegals in with all their violence, those of us who have guns would reconcider but until liberals do something about the violent illegal aliens, they can sit down and shut the hell up.
  • by ETurnage Location: Tallahassee on Jun 26, 2011 at 02:01 PM
    Doctors have killed more people than any gun owner through incompetence or negligence. I'm willing to disclose whether or not I posess a firearm if they are willing to openly post their records as paractitioners,including malfeasance. Fair is fair, right?
  • by Country Location: Groundinfinity on Jun 26, 2011 at 12:02 PM
    @Franklin -- then the doc sez, "Find another doctor." and not only cuts your visit short, but sends you a bill. You go to another doctor -- he sends you a bill too. Now, does your insurance cover both bills? No way. How about if you are on medicaid, or a group plan? Can you just "go find another doctor"? The above scenario is exactly the type of incident that prompted the legislation, so it is not all that simple -- although it used to be.
  • by Franklin Location: Tallahassee on Jun 26, 2011 at 07:16 AM
    This is the same as a merchant asking you for a social security number. They can ask all they want but you don't have to give it.
  • by Death Eater on Jun 26, 2011 at 05:00 AM
    The rationale of their gun arguments drains like the spittle from the corners of their mouths. Put that binky back in little ones, and go back to sleep.
  • by Georgia Boy Location: Cairo on Jun 26, 2011 at 03:46 AM
    Hey, Liz, if you have such strict privacy rights with your doctor, how do insurance companies get the information they need to process a claim or determine whether they will provide you coverage or not? I'll tell you. You sign at your doctors office allowing him or her to give them that "private" information you are giving your doctor. They can then legally provide the information requested and it is then in the grasp of thousands of people working in the insurance business, as well as hackers who want to get it. I see no need for a doctor to know if I own a gun or not. If it doesn't deal with my personal health, it doesn't concern him/her.
  • by Old Soldier Location: South GA on Jun 25, 2011 at 12:29 PM
    If a health care provider asks me a simply question like that I just one answer. None of your business. I have taught my son and grandson how to handle firearms and if my daughter wanted to know how I would have taught her too. I am tired of everyone telling me or trying to tell me how I must raise my children.....I am also tired of the goverment tending to my business.
  • by Anonymous on Jun 25, 2011 at 11:24 AM
    Once again, has anybody here actually read the law?
  • by 1stlttightwad Location: Quitman on Jun 25, 2011 at 10:46 AM
    The slippery slope. If by some chance the doctors right to ask if you have any guns, you know, for your familys well being is upheld what precedence does this set. Can the police, school teacher, etc., ask, you know for your own well being?
  • by Surly Location: Grrr on Jun 25, 2011 at 10:03 AM
    Doctor: "Do you own a car?" -- Patient: "Er, yeah, why do you ask?" -- Doctor: "Well, I want to advise you to buckle your seatbelt. What is the tag number and horsepower?" -- Patient: "UPI G69 and uh, why do you want to know all that?" -- Doctor: "I want to tell you not to drink and drive -- these are important public health issues, so if you don't want to answer these questions, you can just go find another doctor. Also, I will be calling the appropriate authorities to come to your house and check on your child's welfare. People who own cars get in a lot of wrecks, and you seem to have a hostile attitude. Pay the lady 120$ on your way out the door."
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