House approves two gun bills on Hammer’s birthdayby John Kennedy | April 26th, 2011
A compromise between two big Republican backers — the Florida Medical Association and the National Rifle Association — cleared the GOP-dominated House Tuesday, setting new standards for doctors treating gun-owning patients and families.
The legislation (CS/HB 155) bars health care professionals from including in a patient’s health record information about gun ownership, unless it is relevant to medical care or the safety of others. An earlier version of the bill would have made doctors subject to 5 years in prison or $5,000 fines if they asked about a patient’s gun ownership.
The measure was approved 88-30.
“Owning guns is a fundamental right,” said Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Palatka. “It’s not to be infringed upon by your doctor.”
During debate, several lawmakers paid homage to longtime Affiliated Sportsmen of Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer, seated in the House gallery and celebrating a birthday Tuesday. She described the timing as “coincidence.”
Moments later, the House voted 85-33 to OK another measure (CS/HB 45) prohibiting cities and counties from attempting to enact local gun laws tougher than state standards. State law already pre-empts such local measures, but several governments have attempted to impose restrictions, which typically lead to lawsuits.
The House legislation would make city or county officials subject to non-criminal penalties for violating the new standard. Fines could range from $5,000 to as much as $100,000, under the legislation.
“This is bigger government,” said Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami. “This is something that should not happen.”
But Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, said the legislation was needed, “to put some teeth into the law.”
Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson said he he had sought to avoid any conflict with state gun laws earlier this session when he lobbied lawmakers in support of a measure that would have limited the sale of high-volume ammunition clips, a proposal inspired by the shooting of Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords earlier this year.
The legislation had strong county support, Aaronson said. But the legislation, proposed by Rep. Lori Berman and Sen. Maria Sachs, both Delray Beach Democrats, has languished all session.