Gun Owners Privacy Law Prohibiting Doctors from Asking About Guns Struck Down by Florida Federal Court

For years doctors and pediatricians have routinely been informing parents about child safety issues….car seats, swimming pools, household poisons, fire safety and prescription drugs. Why not inform parents about the danger of having unlocked guns in the home?

It seemed like an excellent idea at the time…In the interest of public safety, Florida doctors would ask patients with children if there were guns in the home.

If so, the doctors would then share information about gun safety and the tragic consequences that can occur when kids get hold of guns not locked up securely. They would also hand out printed information.

Sharing information about gun safety just might prevent a horrendous accident from happening to a family. When I first moved to Florida, I suddenly became aware that many of my neighbors owned guns. As a result, I was extremely cautious of allowing my grand child to visit and play in any of her friends’ homes.

There is good reason to worry about kids and guns in the home. In 2007 in the U.S. there were 4,223 unintentional firearm deaths in children and teens under 20

In Florida a 2 year old was shot and killed by his 4 year old brother. An 11 year old died when he skipped school and went to a pal’s house. The boys found an unlocked gun and played with it. A mother and father, who thought their son was at school, got the call that their sixth-grader was shot dead.

An unlocked gun in the house may also be used by a child at risk for suicide. The 13 year old son of a family we know had been brought up with guns. According to his parents he knew all about gun safety.

The boy’s girlfriend broke up with him and he was very upset. He came home from school and shot himself in the head while his parents were at work. He did not die, but he is brain damaged and paralyzed for life.

The American Medical Association developed a policy suggesting that its doctor members inquire about guns “as part of childproofing the home and to educate patients to the danger of firearms to children.”

Sounds reasonable, but the powerful Florida gun lobby took the AMA policy as a Second Amendment threat and an invasion of Gun Owner’s Privacy rights. Backed by the National Rifle Association and enthusiastically signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott, a statute forbidding doctors from asking about guns in the home, was passed by the Florida legislature on June 2nd 2011..

The Gun Owners’ Privacy Law stated that physicians were open to disciplinary actions including up to a $5 million fine and 5 years prison time, if they asked a patient about gun ownership without a compelling medical reason. They were prohibited from sharing gun owners’ information with data bases. Doctors were also not allowed to discriminate against (refuse to treat) or harass a patient because of gun ownership.

Pediatricians complained and sued, saying the law was vague and would expose the doctors to nuisance complaints from the Department of Health.

On September 14, 2011, a Florida Federal judge struck down the gun privacy law saying it was doctors’ First Amendment’s rights to ask about firearms, and in no way violates gun owners’ Second Amendment rights to keep arms.

A study done in 2000 found that 55% of U.S. homes with children had firearms in an unlocked place. 43% had guns without trigger locks in an unlocked place.

Nevertheless, Governor Rick Scott who signed the Gun Owners’ Privacy law, plans to appeal the judges decision allowing doctors to discuss gun safety. He threatens to go all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

The governor beholden to both the NRA and the Tea Party, wants sensible preventative medicine banned from the state of Florida.


St. Pete Times…

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