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Fla. Doctor Gun Law Blocked by Fed. Judge

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on September 15, 2011 4:25 PM

A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction on Wednesday blocking Florida's doctor gun law, which effectively bans doctors from asking patients about gun use and firearm safety.

As exhibited by its official name (Firearm Owners' Privacy Act), legislators passed the law in a bid to protect gun-owning patients from what they believe to be an invasion of privacy.

The court disagreed, finding the law to be an invasion of doctors' and patients' right to free speech.

As part of a push towards preventative medicine, the court explains that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians urge practitioners to provide guidance on the prevention of injuries, including those caused by household chemicals, swimming pools, bike use, drugs, and firearms.

The state argued that such questions not only invade patient privacy, but impinge upon patients' rights to keep arms.

The court disagreed, finding that a firearm inquiry does not implicate the Second Amendment, leaving it to decide only if the doctor gun law violates the First Amendment.

As a content-based restriction, the doctor-gun law can only be upheld if it serves a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of serving that interest.

The Florida doctor gun law was found to fail on both counts.

First, patient privacy in relation to firearm usage is not a compelling interest, as gun safety is not a taboo subject. Second, instead of banning speech, patients could be provided with the right to opt out of such conversations.

Florida's law was thus found unconstitutional.

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