Senate loosens gun laws – muzzles docs, okays ‘open carry’ liteby Dara Kam | April 28th, 2011
With NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer sitting in the front row of the public gallery, the Florida Senate easily approved three bills loosening gun laws, including a measure banning doctors from asking their patients about gun ownership.
Two other measures are now headed to Gov. Rick Scott, an NRA member and gun owner who has said he would sign them into law.
The “open carry” bill (HB 45), watered down yesterday, would protect concealed weapons permit owners from being prosecuted if their guns are accidentally exposed. Proponents of the measure say that current law could subject the inadvertent display of weapons to being charged with a felony.
The third (HB 155) would punish local officials with a fine for passing gun laws stricter than the state’s, already prohibited under state law.
Law enforcement officials opposed the open carry bill, saying it would make their jobs more dangerous.
And barring health care providers from asking safety questions about the presence of weapons in the household could endanger the lives of children and have a chilling effect on the doctor-patient relationship, pediatricians have argued.
Firearm injury is the leading cause of death for children and teens, said Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston.
“Adolescents know about firearms. Children know about firearms and they know where they are. This Republican Party is a party of less government and this is the party that brings us more government intrusion that encroaches into the privacy of a doctor’s office and the doctor-patient relationship,” she said.
But Sen. Alan Hays, a retired dentist, said “it’s none of my business what kind of weapons if any” patients have in their homes.
“If it’s medically necessary you may inquire but otherwise stay out of the private business of your patient,” said Hays, R-Umatilla. The bill passed by a 27-10 vote.