TALLAHASSEE — Pushing back against the National Rifle Association, a group of physicians on Monday filed suit in a Miami federal court to nullify a controversial measure prohibiting health practitioners from routinely asking their patients if they own guns and have them properly stored.
In a battle pitting the First Amendment against the Second Amendment, attorneys representing pediatricians and family doctors are asking U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke to throw out the recently approved measure (HB 155) they say steps illegally between patients and their physician by limiting the types of questions practitioners can ask.
The complaint, filed in the Southern District of Florida, contends that prohibiting what physicians and their patients can talk about is unconstitutional.
"By severely restricting such speech and the ability of physicians to practice such preventative medicine, the Florida statute could result in grievous harm to children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly," the complaint reads. "The First Amendment does not permit such a gross and content-based intrusion on speech and, accordingly, the court should declare the 'Physician Gag Law' unconstitutional and enjoin its enforcement."
The legislation appears to have originated after an Ocala couple complained that their doctor had told them to find another physician after they refused to disclose whether they owned guns.
Physicians say questions about gun ownership are often part of routine screenings done in many doctor's offices, included in a battery of questions including such safety questions as whether poisons are kept in the home or if medicines are safely stored.
Gun backers say ownership is a constitutionally protected right, making it different from other possible potential hazards doctors might ask about.
"We pay doctors to be doctors and give us medical care," Florida NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said in an interview with the Capital News Service last week. "Instead, they are trying to be social workers and bring their gun-ban politics into the examining room."