Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge blocks Florida law restricting doctor gun talk

MIAMI — A federal judge Wednesday blocked a Florida gun law that restricted doctors from asking patients about firearms.

Judge Marcia G. Cooke said doctors had a First Amendment right to ask about firearms, and she rapped the state's lawyers for failing to provide more than anecdotal evidence to show the law was needed.

"The State has attempted to inveigle this Court to cast this matter as a Second Amendment case," Cooke wrote. "Despite the State's insistence that the right to 'keep arms' is the primary constitutional right at issue in this litigation, a plain reading of the statute reveals that this law in no way affects such rights."

Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the "Firearm Owners' Privacy Act" into law June 2nd vowed to appeal.

"The privacy of firearm owners' legislation was carefully crafted to respect the First Amendment. We plan to appeal the judge's block, and we're confident we'll win the appeal," Scott's office said in a written statement.

In an interesting twist, the judge arrived at her ruling, in part, based on a free-speech case brought by Scott's former chain of urgent-care clinics, Solantic, which sued the City of Neptune Beach over a sign ordinance.

Under that ruling, an appeals court said that in some free-speech cases "a law must constitute the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling government interest," Cooke wrote.

The firearm law didn't prohibit doctors outright from asking about guns; it said they should refrain from inquiring about firearm ownership unless there's a compelling medical reason.

Many doctors don't ask about firearms, but some pediatricians do — in addition to inquiring about pools and drugs in the home. But some Medicaid patients in the Panhandle and in Ocala complained that the questions about guns infringed on their privacy, and they complained to lawmakers.

Originally, the legislation banned doctors from asking about firearms at all. But the National Rifle Association and the Florida Medical Association agreed on compromise legislation that said doctors "should" refrain from the line of questioning. The bill then passed the Legislature.

Pediatricians, though, continued to protest and then sued. They said the law was vague enough to expose doctors to nuisance complaints to the Department of Health.

"Physicians concerned that a patient may interpret unsolicited counseling as 'unnecessarily harassing' have stopped or curtailed their practice of counseling patients on firearm safety," Cooke wrote in her ruling.

The sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Greg Evers, said the law was designed to protect people from harassment from physicians.

"What's more important: the First Amendment or the Second Amendment? I thought a judge should value all the amendments to the Constitution," Evers said. "This is one judge's opinion. And there are lots of judges between here and the Supreme Court."

But one of the lawyers for the doctors, Miami's Dennis Kainen, said Cooke's ruling will be tough to overcome.

"It's more than 1,100 miles to the Supreme Court from Miami. There are a lot of hoops to jump through," Kainen said. "It's a really well-reasoned opinion. The law was so clearly wrong."

Judge blocks Florida law restricting doctor gun talk 09/14/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 9:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa man arrested in fatal motel shooting

    Crime

    TAMPA — A 37-year-old Tampa man was arrested on a manslaughter charge Thursday for the death of Yasmine L. Tyson on Monday night.

     Christopher Lee Carithers, 37, of Tampa, was arrested on a manslaughter charge Thursday  for the shooting death of Yasmine L. Tyson in a hotel Monday night. [Tampa Police Department]
  2. St. Pete's Downtown Looper expands service with $900,000 grant

    Transportation

    By DIVYA KUMAR

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG ­— The Downtown Looper will expand its route and its hours starting in October 2018 thanks to a $900,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

  3. Latest sewage crisis fallout: Higher utility bills in St. Pete

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — For months the cost of the city's sewage crisis has been measured in terms of environmental damage, legal ramifications and political repercussions.

    Now residents are about to get the bill.

    Signs at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg warn people in September 2016 to stay out of the water due to contamination from partially treated sewage during the height of the city's sewage crisis. Now the City Council is considering how much to raise utility rates to pay the $326 million bill to fix St. Petersburg's sewage system. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  4. Rays add a bat, too, acquiring Lucas Duda from Mets

    Blogs

    The Rays made another big move today, acquiring 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.

    Duda, 31, is a lefty slugger who will take over as the Rays primary DH against right-handers, with Corey Dickerson now playing most of the time in the outfield.

    To get Duda, the Rays gave up minor-league RHP Drew Smith, …

    The Rays acquired 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.
  5. Florida's legal losses up to $19 million and counting since 2011

    Blogs

    From Gary Fineout of the Associated Press:

    This is getting expensive.