FL Primary Care Docs Battle 'Gun Gag' Law

John Commins, June 13, 2011

Primary care physicians' associations in Florida have filed a federal lawsuit to strike down a new "physician gun gag" law that they say hinders them from talking about firearms hazards with patients.

"This is not about guns. It has nothing to do with the Second Amendment right to bear arms but it infringes upon the First Amendment right to discuss firearms safety," Lisa A. Cosgrove, MD, president of the Florida Pediatric Society/Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told HealthLeaders Media.

"The bottom line is it is interfering with our right to talk to our patients. Inside of my exam room, that is private territory. It is already protected under HIPAA laws. There should be nothing that interferes with that and this does."

The legislation, HB 155 – was signed into law this month by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Lane Wright, Scott's press secretary, defended the bill. "I think that last part is what some people miss—'if the information is not relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of others,'" Wright said in an email to HealthLeaders Media. "The law ensures respect for a patient's right to own or possess a firearm and protects them from potential discrimination and harassment in cases where it is not relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of anyone else in the home."

Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association representative in Florida, said she felt compelled to bring the bill to the Florida Legislature after hearing complaints for several years that gun owners were being harassed by their physicians about their firearms.

"So, we sought sponsors for legislation that would prevent doctors from invading the privacy rights of their patients and bringing their gun ban politics into examining rooms," Hammer said. "People take their children to pediatricians for medical care, not to be lectured to get rid of their guns, not to be asked if they own guns, how many, where they are stored. Those are questions that no doctor has a right to ask unless he or she fears the patient may be a danger to him or herself or others, or unless they feel someone in the home may be a danger to the patient or others."

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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