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Federal court schedules oral arguments in Florida “Docs and Glocks” case

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 by Dara Kam

A federal appellate court in Atlanta has scheduled oral arguments late this spring in a case over a Florida law barring doctors from asking their patients about gun ownership,

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit will hear oral arguments during the week of May 20, according to a lawyer representing a group of doctors that sued the state over the 2011 law.

A federal judge in Florida permanently blocked the National Rifle Association-backed law from going into effect last year, ruling that it unconstitutionally violates doctors right to freedom of speech.

Gov. Rick Scott appealed U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke’s ruling that rejected that state’s arguments that the law unfairly discriminates against gun owners.

President Obama recently issued an executive order clarifying that the federal health care law known as “Obamacare” does not prohibit doctors or health care providers from asking about guns.

Scott fires back over docs and guns, appeals ruling blocking law

Monday, July 30th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott, as expected, is appealing a judge’s ruling that permanently blocked a law barring doctors from asking patients about guns from going into effect.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke earlier this month issued a permanent injunction banning enforcement of the “Firearm Owner’s Privacy Act,” pushed by the National Rifle Association, ruling the law unconstitutionally violates physicians’ freedom of speech.

“This law was carefully crafted to respect the First Amendment while ensuring a patient’s constitutional right to own or possess a firearm without discrimination. I signed this legislation into law because I believe it is constitutional and I will continue to defend it,” Scott said in a statement announcing the state Department of Health was appealing.

The Florida chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians sued Scott shortly after the he signed the act into law last year, arguing that what they called the “physician gag law” prevented doctors from doing their job.

Proponents of the measure said the law prevented discrimination against gun owners, some of whom had complained that doctors were using questions about firearms to discourage gun ownership.

Federal judge permanently blocks docs n’ guns law

Monday, July 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida doctors will be allowed to ask their patients about gun ownership after a federal judge on Friday ruled a law barring physicians from questioning patients about weapons in the home is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke blocked the law from going into effect last year after three groups of doctors sued Gov. Rick Scott over what they called the “doctor gag law.”

On Friday, Cooke ruled that the law is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment freedom of speech rights.

“This law chills practitioners’ speech in a way that impairs the provision of medical care and may ultimately harm the patient,” Cooke wrote in her 25-page ruling>ruling.

Passed by lawmakers last year, Florida was the only state in the nation to impose the restriction on doctors, according to the National Rifle Association, which pushed the law. Some gun-owners complained that their doctors were using questions about firearms to discourage gun ownership. According to the lawsuit, one doctor refused to treat a patient who refused to answer questions about whether he owned a gun.

Cooke also said the law, which imposes penalties on doctors who “unnecessarily harass a patient about firearm ownership,” was too vague.

The “harassment provision does not provide fair notice as to what range of conduct it prohibits,” Cooke wrote.

UPDATE: Physicians threaten lawsuit over ‘docs and Glocks’ bill

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 by Dara Kam

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.

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