Washington Post, February 17, 2017
Ben Guarino

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In 2011, the Florida state legislature passed a law called the Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act. The act prohibited Florida doctors from asking routine questions about their patients’ gun ownership, unless that information was deemed relevant to patient care or the safety of others.

It also barred physicians from noting in medical records whether patients owned guns. Patients, too, could report doctors for “unnecessarily harassing” about guns. The law was a reaction to a handful of highly publicized cases, including an incident in which a health professional privately asked children if their mother owned guns and an Ocala pediatrician who, in 2010, dropped a patient after she called his query about her gun ownership an invasion of privacy.

A few days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act into law, doctors challenged it in court. “Each year, Florida children are harmed when they or other children gain access to firearms that have not been stored properly,” said the 2011 suit. The case, which became known as “Doc vs Glocks,” wound its way from the state to the federal court system over the course of six years.

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled that the matter was not one of the Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms, but the First. The court ruled in a 10 to 1 decision that the law infringed upon doctors’ freedom of speech. [...]

doctor-patient relationship health law policy judicial opinions public health regulation