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“Docs v. Glocks” Act Upheld in Florida: Doctors Prohibited from Discussing Gun Ownership with Patients

In 2013, 17 children in Florida were killed by accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wounds due to parents foolishly leaving loaded guns available to their children; federal mortality statistics reflect a similar statistic nationwide. However, the New York Times has investigated the statistics and found that the number has been vastly underreported. The discrepancy, it has been found out, is due largely to the fact that child gun deaths are labeled as homicides, even though their deaths are due to accidental, self-inflicted shots.

The labeling of homicide is because parents have a significant duty to protect their children from dangers, and leaving a loaded weapon around the house for a child to find is considered a breach of that duty. In 2014 in Lake Worth, for example, a father was found guilty of manslaughter for the accidental death of his three-year-old daughter who picked up his loaded semi-automatic pistol off the table and shot herself.

Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act

Florida, however, has recently upheld the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, also known as the “Docs v. Glocks law,” which has received acclaim from NRA advocates and has drawn significant uproar from physicians and anti-gun activists. Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act now dictates the way that physicians practice medicine in their home state. Under the Act, Florida physicians may discuss many behaviors and issues relating to their patients’ long-term health risks but, pursuant to this new law, they may not discuss their patients’ gun ownership.

The Controversy Behind the Act

Advocates in favor of the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act strongly support this act, as it dictates that a physician should only discuss with the patient any medically-relevant behavior or risk. Opponents, on the other hand, believe that this Act is a gag order and hinders a physician’s ability to practice medicine. In the opponents’ view, owning a gun within the home is a health risk, especially where there may be domestic abuse or violence and/or children or a suicidal person living in the home.

First Amendment Issues of the Act

Regardless of which side of the issue one might be on, the holding of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Florida state legislature has the right to restrict doctors and other members of the medical field from inquiring about gun ownership. The case that pushed the issue to the forefront had anecdotal evidence suggesting that doctors who found out that patients own guns might refuse to work with these patients and that gun owners may face discrimination based on the physician’s personal belief on guns. Doctors, however, believe that the “gag order” being placed on them violates their First Amendment right to speak with their patients or clients about any issues that they believe may be medically relevant in private. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, disagrees; in the 2-1 three-judge ruling, the Court states that Florida doctors’ First Amendment rights are only inconsequentially and minutely infringed.

Consequences of Violation of the Act for Doctors

Violation of the upheld Act may have the consequence of a Florida doctor’s medical license being revoked or a fine of $10,000. Opponents believe the law is vaguely worded and overwhelmingly broad and that even an indirect inquiry could constitute a form of harassment and could lead to significant punishment.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Gun safety laws are at the forefront of Florida’s legal and criminal justice system. Laws like “Stand Your Ground” and the “Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act” are just a couple examples of the laws that make up Florida’s gun legislation. If you have been arrested for a gun-related offense, it is important to be defended by an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik who understands the complexities and intricacies of gun legislation in Florida. Contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation.

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