NRA Wins in Court Over Florida’s Gag Law

Gavel in Court

I have mixed feelings about the NRA-backed bill that prevents doctors from asking about gun ownership, because I believe that the government should never have the power to control speech in that kind of manner.

I realized that many professions are regulated in these kinds of terms, but I’m not sure that all bad advice ought to be illegal advice, and I’m not sure why we can’t protect our privacy with a polite “Mind your own business, doc.” But apparently the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals disagrees with me, and delivered NRA a win in the case.

In the ruling, the three judge panel ruled: “In keeping with these traditional codes of conduct—which almost universally mandate respect for patient privacy—the Act simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters. As such, we find that the Act is a legitimate regulation of professional conduct. The Act simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care.”

On the other side of the coin, the medical profession has politicized itself far and beyond what I think is appropriate, and this is a greatly needed shot across the bow at the AMA and the AAP. They would be wise to issue new guidelines to doctors telling them to learn to mind their own business when it comes to topics that have nothing to do with the practice of medicine, like gun ownership.

I am loathe to punish pediatricians who want to talk to parents about guns in the context of other dangerous household articles, or to punish a doctor who talks to a patient about guns because the doctor and patient are both gun enthusiasts. The latter is in my opinion pretty unambiguously free speech.

But doctors have abused their position to promote a political agenda, and this is what they have reaped by doing so. NRA has more weight to throw around Congress and State Capitols than the medical establishment does, and they would do well to remain cognizant of that fact.

12 thoughts on “NRA Wins in Court Over Florida’s Gag Law”

  1. Shocked that this wold hold up. Doctors should be able to ask anything they want. You can always find a new doctor.

    1. When the patient records are electronic, accessible to the federal government via multiple agencies in multiple ways, and there is little to no regulation of the federal use of those records, this simple doctor question becomes a de facto gun owner registration after a few years.

      That is why it should be stopped.

      Also, many physicians know nothing about gun safety, and are practicing beyond their capability when they preach about guns in homes.

      That is also why it should be stopped.

  2. I’m somewhat conflicted on this issue. I agree that the government shouldn’t be meddling in discussions between my patients and I, but likewise I think that the various professional organizations shouldn’t be able to REQUIRE physicians to ask questions they have little understanding of, or ability to discuss rationally. And that is what started this whole mess: The American Academy of Pediatrics deciding that baby docs need to ask parents and patients should be asked about guns, which are categorically bad…..

    And if a Pediatrician (or member of any other professional body with similar, stupid rules) doesn’t ask, then they are not acting in a professional manner, and are liable to being cast from the guild…which means great difficulty in getting hospital privileges, much higher malpractice premiums, etc.

    How about a law that says professional organizations stay the hell out of political issues, and unless/until they are willing to educate their members on BOTH sides of an issue (not the majority consensus, voted on by the kids that were on the AV crew in high school and are scared of guns) then they don’t make stupid requirements.

  3. Normally I would never like the idea of the government stepping in on what a doctor asks me, but on the other hand our healthcare system in this country has become so intertwined with the government and lobbying to begin with that I simply don’t view a doctor as a purely-private neighborhood caregiver.

    Both the AMA and AAP call for stronger gun laws including an AWB, mag limits, and universal background checks:

    More importantly, they call for the ability to ask their patients about guns due to what they perceive the problems are, which are “assault weapons”, “high capacity mags”, and private sales. Now, we all know the facts and statistics regarding the aforementioned “issues”, which means these organizations are calling for restrictions not based on research but the same scare-tactics that ignorant politicians employ. That right there tells me that they need, as Sebastian put it, a shot across the bow.

  4. Question: Does anyone know if under “ObamaCare,” Doctors are supposed to ask about Gun Ownership? I’ve heard Rumors, but nothing Solid.

    1. Given what this administration stands for, an executive order could be issued to “fix” that issue. Your question is the answer in itself.

  5. Docs now record all pertinent info during an exam.. That’s the point.. This could become a defato registration of gun owners disguised as medical info, and freely available to the government under ACA.. What happens when they record “mind your own business”.. Does that become reasonable suspicion for the flash bang boys? I say bravo florida.

  6. I don’t think pediatricians need to take on the role of “safety regulators” for the public. If there’s an actual medical reason to ask about guns in the home, docs are still free to do so. I can only think of one situation where I’ve asked a patient about guns at home, and that was after the patient said he was going to go home after discharge and kill himself. Pretty sure I’d get a “medically relevant” pass on that one!

    The American Nurses Association assumes an anti-gun stance too, it’s one of the big reasons I’m not a member.

  7. Personally, I’m happy about this one.

    On the one hand, doctors shouldn’t be asking questions and offering advice on issues they’re not subject-matter experts on – which usually includes gun ownership/safety – during the course of a medical exam or screening. Nothing should be going into the doctors’ or labs’ notes that doesn’t directly pertain to the matter at hand.

    On the other hand, I agree that the AMA and AAP (and the APA, too) have politicized themselves out of relevance on the issue of guns. They are no longer neutral parties, and any “advice” from them – especially unsolicited advice – cannot be trusted to be objective.

    And on the shooting hand, regarding patients’ medical records, which under the ACA are available to gov’t officials, and presumably private insurance companies: If my guns are stolen or I’m injured in a hunting/shooting mishap, I don’t want my medical/home/renter’s/etc. insurance denying my claim because I own guns “against medical advice.” I’m not saying it would happen, but it could.

    I don’t believe this ruling prohibits doctors from talking about guns with their patients – especially if they’re both gun enthusiasts – but such conversation cannot go into the patients’ records unless it’s pertinent to medical care. IOW, it’s just idle chatter and should be regarded as such, just as if both were gardening enthusiasts talking about their home-grown veggies.

  8. Oh, FWIW, “J.B.Miller” posted on his blog “The Miller” that he was asked by his Urologist if he had “Firearms in the Home.” And he lives in Virginia. So….

  9. The AMA and others have abused their position of trust, and the smackdown was required. But like you I don’t want to make legitimate concern about the welfare of myself and my family illegal.

    Our pediatrician talked about the issue with me and my wife; he’s from India and is still in wonderment over many US customs, practices and cultural phenomena. His concern is legitimate: how do you secure these things so your three year old son – who idolizes everything daddy and mommy related – doesn’t get into trouble?

    The way I see it, his words are no different from a fellow gunnie talking the same issues with me, or hearing “Rule 1” called out at the range.

    As it stands, the doctor is also learning to shoot pistol at our range. He had never touched a firearm before asking us to teach him. So it goes both ways. I’ll say this about our friend from India – he knows more about Thomas Jefferson than most Civil War buffs. He is fascinated with US history, and I hope he never goes back to India and I hope he becomes a citizen, because we need more people like him.

  10. Sometime late last decade, my kids’ pediatrician’s nurse started routinely asking us at every annual checkup whether we have guns in the house, in a series of questions about potential health hazards in the home — does anyone smoke, any pets that might trigger allergies, that sort of thing. Answers are recorded in the file. Apparently standard practice, handed down from on high from the AAP.

    I really don’t like having to lie to my kids’ pediatrician and having to tell my wife to lie. Nor do I relish the prospect of someday having to tell my kids to lie to their doctor about it. And I really don’t like the political climate in which all this lying is necessary.

    As thinkers from Confucius to Solzhenitsyn have noticed, forcing the people to live by lies is a great way to destroy civilization. Not for nothing is the Devil called the Father of Lies.

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