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Appeals Court OKs Florida Gun-gag Law

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In 2012, Florida physician groups successfully blocked a state law which was meant to restrict their discussion of gun safety with patients.

Late last week, in a 2 to 1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Florida state legislature had the right to pass the law.

While the Florida chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians as well as individual physicians argued in their lawsuit that by violating their constitutional guarantee of free speech, the law precludes an open doctor-patient relationship, Judge Gerald Tjoflat disagreed. In his majority opinion, he wrote that the law "simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters."

Dissenting, Judge Charles Wilson agreed with the physician groups.

This gun-gag law means that physicians who record information about gun ownership that is later determined not to be “relevant” or “unnecessarily harassing" could be fined or, worse, risk losing their medical licensure.

Several local primary care physicians interviewed today condemned this latest twist.

One Family Physician who asked not to be named, stated, “This is a really sad day. For physicians, the ability to discuss all kinds of home safety issues with patients is a basic part of good care. It’s how we hope to prevent accidents and save lives. How can anyone reasonably think this is a bad thing to do?”

Another, who is a Pediatrician, said that following this law means not adhering to the recent recommendations made by health care experts in her field who advised all Pediatricians to assess potential accidents risks from firearms. “Since when was it legal for the government to practice medicine?” she asked.

Supporters of the law include Governor Scott and the National Rifle Association who claimed that that counseling patients about the safe use of firearms especially with respect to children would somehow interfere with the individual's right to possess firearms.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians all issued press releases expressing strong opposition to the legislation and the recent court ruling.

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