Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Take Two Losses and Call Me in the Morning: Florida Court Again Sides With Patient Privacy, Hands Nosy Doctors Second Defeat

Friday, July 31, 2015

Take Two Losses and Call Me in the Morning: Florida Court Again Sides With Patient Privacy, Hands Nosy Doctors Second Defeat

Anti-gun doctors may need to get their own blood pressure checked after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit again upheld Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act

As we reported last summer, the law was passed after an escalating series of events in which patients were harassed or denied access to services because they refused to be interrogated by their doctors about their ownership of firearms.  A group of Florida doctors committed to the idea of haranguing patients for exercising their Second Amendment rights sued, claiming a First Amendment right to grill patients about firearm ownership, even where it isn’t relevant to the patient’s care.

Unsurprisingly, the appellate court upheld the law last July, stating: “The essence of the Act is simple: medical practitioners should not record information or inquire about patients’ firearm-ownership status when doing so is not necessary to providing the patient with good medical care.” Far from a ban on doctors’ expressing their views about firearms or other public policy or medical issues, the court held, the Act merely “protects a patient’s ability to receive effective medical treatment without compromising the patient’s privacy with regard to matters unrelated to healthcare.” 

It’s no secret that the medical establishment has long been hostile toward the private ownership of firearms. No less a doctor than President Obama’s pick for U.S. Surgeon General has engaged in anti-gun activism.  Even WebMD.com, a common online source for medical information, counsels parents to “to avoid keeping guns and firearms in the home,” and only provides recommendations for “secure” storage when purging the home of firearms altogether “is not possible.” This history, as well as outright discrimination against patients who refused to discuss their gun ownership, formed the backdrop for Florida’s law.

It’s also no surprise that the plaintiffs and other gun control advocates were not happy with the loss the Eleventh Circuit handed to them back in 2014. “Censorship in Your Doctor’s Office,” huffed the New York Times. A Florida physician’s group called the decision “egregious” and “dangerous” and claimed it would silence “life-saving conversations.” 

In any case, the panel of judges that issued the original opinion decided on their own initiative to revisit their original analysis. The results of that reconsideration were issued on Tuesday, in a revised 77-page opinion. Spoiler alert: the doctors still lose and patient privacy still wins.

Whereas the original opinion characterized the regulated behavior more as conduct – i.e., medical practice – rather than pure speech, the revised opinion delves more deeply into the First Amendment claims raised by the plaintiffs. Finding that inquiries into gun ownership, entries about gun ownership in medical records, and even verbal “harassment” of gun owners are all forms of “speech” protected by the First Amendment, the court then considers the seriousness of the regulatory intrusion and level of scrutiny to be applied to it. 

The court observes, “All regulations of speech are not created equal in the eyes of the First Amendment.” Here, the court characterizes the regulated expression as “professional speech.” It then finds the government has a freer hand to regulate in this context because of “the authority—duty, even—of States to regulate the practice of professions to ‘shield the public against the untrustworthy, the incompetent, or the irresponsible.’” In this case, “The State made the commonsense determination that inquiry about firearm ownership, a topic which many of its citizens find highly private, falls outside the bounds of good medical care to the extent the physician knows such inquiry to be entirely irrelevant to the medical care or safety of a patient or any person.” The court therefore determines that “intermediate scrutiny” is the proper standard for evaluating the law.

The court identifies the state’s interests in enacting the law as “protecting the public by regulating the medical profession so as to safeguard patient privacy,” which it finds “substantial” enough to satisfy intermediate scrutiny. It then goes on to find that the law’s requirements have a “direct and material” relationship to alleviating those harms. Citing the legislative record of complaints against physicians, and the limited nature of the restrictions imposed by the law, the court determines “’simple common sense’ furnishes ample support for the legislature’s decision.” “The State need not point to peer-reviewed studies or conduct extensive surveys,” the opinion states, “to establish that proscribing highly intrusive speech that physicians themselves do not believe to be relevant or necessary directly advances the State’s interest in protecting its citizens from harmful or ineffective professional practices and safeguarding their privacy.”

We certainly agree, and we credit the Court for its thorough, well-reasoned opinion. Whether it’s the final word in the case, however, remains to be seen. One of the three judges hearing the case filed a lengthy dissent, echoing the familiar refrain that doctors’  must be free to address the “public health problem” posed by firearms according to their own beliefs. The plaintiffs still have the options of petitioning the full roster of Eleventh Circuit judges to hear the case en banc or to appeal directly to the Supreme Court. 

TRENDING NOW
Justice Department Terminates and Repudiates Operation Chokepoint

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Justice Department Terminates and Repudiates Operation Chokepoint

Current Justice Department leadership and Boyd should be commended for their forceful statement on this matter. This unequivocal repudiation of Operation Chokepoint should make a return to such political persecution unpalatable for all but the ...

Oregon: Governor Signs Anti-Gun Bill into Law

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Oregon: Governor Signs Anti-Gun Bill into Law

Yesterday, Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 719A.  Based on a California law enacted in 2014, SB 719A will create a so-called “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) that could be obtained by a law enforcement ...

Elizabeth Warren Urges Democrats to Champion Gun Control, Shut Down Debate

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Elizabeth Warren Urges Democrats to Champion Gun Control, Shut Down Debate

Just as many in the Democratic Party are seeking to moderate their message in order to once again compete as a national political party, some high-profile Democrats are urging the party to lurch further left ...

Washington: Department of Labor & Industries Targeting Shooting Ranges

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Washington: Department of Labor & Industries Targeting Shooting Ranges

At the request of Public Health, Seattle & King County, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries has released a “first draft” of a new statewide regulatory scheme targeting lead and lead exposure in the workplace. ...

California: Ruling in NRA/CRPA Lawsuit Reigns in DOJ’s Misuse of DROS Fees

Friday, August 18, 2017

California: Ruling in NRA/CRPA Lawsuit Reigns in DOJ’s Misuse of DROS Fees

A California state court issued an important ruling in the NRA and CRPA supported case of Gentry v. Becerra, holding DOJ accountable for its historical mismanagement and misuse of DROS (dealer record of sale) account funds.

American Bar Association Continues to Attack Gun Owners, Due Process

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, August 18, 2017

American Bar Association Continues to Attack Gun Owners, Due Process

The 2016 compilation of legislative policies of the ABA includes a raft of gun control proposals. In it, the ABA advocates for outmoded gun control measures, such as limits on the sale and possession of ...

First, Carry No Gun: Police Chief Gets Inhospitable Reception at Texas Medical Clinic

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

First, Carry No Gun: Police Chief Gets Inhospitable Reception at Texas Medical Clinic

We recently reported on claims that “gun safety advocates” in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have given a U.S. Marine Corps. veteran an untenable choice: custody of his grandson or his constitutional ...

Arizona Supreme Court Rebuffs Tucson’s Illegal Destruction of Firearms

News  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Arizona Supreme Court Rebuffs Tucson’s Illegal Destruction of Firearms

On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously held that the state was within its authority to prohibit cities and counties from routinely destroying firearms obtained through forfeiture or as unclaimed property. State law holds that ...

Trump Administration Ends Another Obama-era Anti-Gun Policy

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Trump Administration Ends Another Obama-era Anti-Gun Policy

Justice Department to End ‘Operation Choke Point’

California: 2017 Legislative Session Reconvenes on Monday

Thursday, August 17, 2017

California: 2017 Legislative Session Reconvenes on Monday

On Monday, August 21, the California Legislature will reconvene from Summer recess.  Below is the status on the firearm-related bills still moving through the legislative process.  Please send an email to your state legislators respectfully urging ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.