Docs vs. Glocks: Why Florida Doctors Can’t Share Gun Safety Tips With Children 

 March 10, 2016

By  LMW Attorneys

In recent years, a series of decisions have come out of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to clarify the extent to which the First Amendment to the Constitution applies to speech between doctors and patients. In Pickup v. Brown, the 9th Circuit Court upheld a California ban on sexual orientation therapy. In 2014, the 3rd Circuit Court upheld a similar ban in New Jersey.

The First Amendment and Firearms

The question has been: to what extent does the First Amendment apply to a doctor’s speech? One of the most restrictive laws to date was passed in the state of Florida. In 2011, the Florida legislature passed the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, a law stating that a doctor may not ask questions relating to the patient’s possession of a firearm unless it is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety.

A doctor who inquires about gun ownership without enough reason may face fines of up to $10,000, as well as lose his or her medical license. Doctors may not enter a conversation about firearm possession with the patient nor enter any ownership information into the patient’s medical record unless the doctor believes it to be relevant to a patient’s medical care or safety. While it is not clear on what will constitute a violation, the law was a reply to complaints by citizens that doctors repeatedly asked about firearm ownership in questionnaires and as a part of normative medical care.

Professional-client Speech: Gun Safety Tips?

The law was challenged in the case of Wollschlaeger v. Governor. In the past, the court has ruled that professional-client speech is an inherently different form of speech. In this case, the 11th Circuit Court upheld Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, stating that professional-client speech is subject to additional restrictions. The Court upheld that the law is in the best interest of protecting patient privacy.

In Florida, the government can require you to obtain a license in order to give financial, medical, psychiatric or legal advice. Professionals are also required to give disclaimers about certain procedures.

Call Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins to Learn About Gun Laws

65 children are shot everyday in America, and eight of these children die each day. In the U.S., one-third of homes with children under the age of 18 have firearms in them. 40 percent of those homes store their guns in unlocked locations, and a quarter of them store firearms that are loaded.

For any inquiries about the law and how it applies to you, contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A. Our law firm is in a prime position to advise patients and medical professionals about their rights in relation to the Florida law, as this one is particularly vague and confusing. Call us today for any of your legal questions.