An NRA-backed bill that would curb the questions doctors can ask patients about gun ownership passed out of a House subcommittee Tuesday.
But amid criticism from doctors’ groups, even some of the representatives who supported moving the controversial bill forward said they doubted whether they’d ultimately vote to pass it into law.
House Bill 155, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford ), makes it an invasion of privacy for a doctor, nurse or other medical professional to ask patients whether they own guns or keep them in the home.
Many medical groups adopt policies to encourage physicians to ask patients about firearms. The American Medical Association, for instance, tells members to ask parents about guns as part of child-proofing their homes.
The original version of the bill also made it a third-degree felony for doctors and nurses to refuse treatment to patients who won’t answer questions about gun ownership or to enter – even accidentally – information about firearms into patients’ medical records.
An amendment, however, took away the criminal penalties and also created more clear exceptions for doctors to ask the questions, including psychiatrists treating patients who are risk of hurting themselves.
Still, the last-minute changes task prosecutors with investigating incidents as potential civil violations. Critics, including the Florida Medical Association, say the legislation would have a chilling effect on the doctor-patient relationship.
They also say there is already an avenue for patients who find their doctors to be abusive, the Board of Medicine. And they question whether there is a problem with doctors refusing to treat patients who won't answer their gun questions.
“You’re opening up a Pandora’s box,” said David Custin, a lobbyist for the association. “For those of you who espouse small government, I can’t see how you reconcile voting for this … and going back to constituents and saying you’re for less government.”
NRA’s Florida president, Marion Hammer, said the bill was in response to years of complaints from patients who felt bullied by doctors who anti-gun agendas.
“We’re being forced to see them as political operatives,” Hammer said.
The bill passed 9 to 6. Rep. Gayle Harrell (R--Stuart ) was one of those who voted to move it forward but she said she wasn’t happy with the provisions fining doctors.
“I’m a big supporter of Second Amendment rights,” she said. But “I’m very concerned about where this goes.”
Next stop for the House bill – there is a similar version moving through the Senate -- is the Health & Human Services Committee.