UPDATE: Physicians threaten lawsuit over ‘docs and Glocks’ billby Dara Kam | June 2nd, 2011
UPDATE: Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill (HB 155) into law today.
Three groups of physicians are threatening to sue the state if Gov. Rick Scott signs into law a bill barring doctors from asking patients if they own a gun.
Lawyers representing members of the Florida chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians asked Scott to veto the measure (HB 155) because they say it restricts their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
“Healthcare professionals throughout the state of Florida routinely speak with patients about effective methods to minimize a variety of risks to their health and safety,” attorneys Bruce Manheim Jr. and Douglas Hallward-Driemeier of the Washington-based law firm Ropes & Gray wrote to Scott last week. Scott has until June 9 to act on the law.
Doctors advise patients about safety issues associated with swimming pools, dangerous chemicals, bike helmets and car seats, they wrote, and “provide anticipatory guidance regarding the significant health risks posed by firearms in the household.”
The bill would prohibit those talks and impose severe sanctions including fines and permanent revocation of licenses.
“In sum, if CS/CS/HB 155 becomes law, it will deprive healthcare professionals throughout the state of Florida of their rights under the First Amendment to freedom of speech. In violation of the U.S. Constitution, the law would also deprive patients of potentially life-saving information regarding safety measures they can take to protect their children, families and others from injury or death resulting from unsafe storage or handling of firearms,” the lawyers wrote. “For these reasons, we intend to file a lawsuit against you and other state officials in the event this legislation becomes law.”
The NRA sent out an action alert last week asking members to pressure Scott to sign the measure.
“Doctors need to treat illness, not guns. Pediatricians and other physicians, in growing numbers, are prying into our personal lives, invading our privacy and straying from issues relating to disease and medicine by questioning children or their parents about gun ownership,” the NRA’s Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer, a former NRA president, urged in an e-mail on May 26.