Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Free speech wins in docs vs. glocks

For sound medical reasons, doctors commonly ask patients about safety issues: gates around swimming pools, locks on cabinets containing poisons, and yes, guns in the home. A 2011 state law twisted those commonsense precautions into a fabricated assault on the Second Amendment and restricted doctors from asking patients about firearm ownership. This week, a federal appeals court identified the real infringement — limiting the free speech rights of doctors — and struck down key provisions of this unnecessary law.

The Firearm Owners' Privacy Act, nicknamed "Docs vs. Glocks," was prompted by a handful of complaints from gun owners whose doctors had asked questions the patients perceived as harassing. One Ocala mother said a doctor refused to treat her child after she refused to answer. Nothing requires patients to answer any questions from a doctor, and the law already provides protection for people whose doctors sever their relationship. But with aggressive backing from the National Rifle Association, the Legislature overreacted and created disciplinary and financial penalties for doctors who ask patients about gun ownership beyond what is "relevant" to medical care or safety. The statute also sought to prevent doctors from putting information about gun ownership in medical records, and from discriminating against patients or "harassing" them for owning firearms.

"The first problem," the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in its 8-3 decision, "is that there was no evidence whatsoever ... that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients' firearms or otherwise infringed on patients' Second Amendment rights." Of course there wasn't. Doctors have no authority to take anyone's gun away. Just asking about guns in a home — which follows guidance from the American Medical Association about assessing safety risks — is not an infringement of the right to bear arms. In other words, the court wrote, there's "no actual conflict" between the First Amendment free speech rights of doctors and the Second Amendment gun rights of patients.

Don't tell that to Marion Hammer, the longtime NRA lobbyist in Tallahassee. She accused the court of using the First Amendment "as a sword to terrorize the Second Amendment" and declaring that it "completely disregards the rights and the will of the elected representatives of the people of Florida." That would be the elected representatives who long ago made it a crime to fail to secure firearms that could be accessed by minors. The elected representatives who inscribed in Florida law that a "tragically large number of Florida children have been accidentally killed or seriously injured by negligently stored firearms; that placing firearms within the reach or easy access of children is irresponsible, encourages such accidents, and should be prohibited; and that legislative action is necessary to protect the safety of our children."

The Firearm Owners' Privacy Act risks the safety of children by preventing doctors from making routine inquiry of parents about whether their handguns are properly stored and locked. That's sensible preventive medicine, not a gun grab, and the federal appeals court saw right through it.

Comments
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the stateís safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last weekís massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Associationís solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasnít enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldnít take months or another tragedy for Florida ó which is hot and full of seniors ó to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. Thatís why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18