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Docs v. Glocks Law Can Go Into Effect as 11th Lifts Injunction

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on August 04, 2015 12:59 PM

A Florida law that prevents doctors from asking patients about guns in their home will soon go into effect, the Associated Press reports. The Eleventh Circuit vacated an injunction against the law last week, allowing the so-called "Docs v. Glocks" law to go ahead.

The Florida legislation, officially titled the "Firearm Owners Privacy Act," prohibits doctors from talking with their patients about guns in their homes when irrelevant to medical care. Last year, the Eleventh ruled that the Act doesn't violate doctors' rights to communicate with their patients, it "simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters."

When Unnecessary to a Patient's Care

The law prevents doctors from asking about gun ownership and entering that information into medical files, when such questions are unnecessary to a patient's care. Those prohibitions are simply legitimate professional regulations, the Eleventh ruled last year. A violation can lead to suspension or revocation of a doctor's medical license as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

Doctors had argued that the law prevents them from discussing important health issues with their patients. National medical associations recommend asking about gun ownership, so that doctors can advise their patients regarding proper gun safety. The Associated Press reports that the court lifted the injunction preventing the law from going into effect on July 28th.

There's a fair argument that routinely asking about gun ownership is usually necessary for a patient's care, as guns in the home increase the risk of violent injury and death. If doctors want to make that case, however, the court said they must wait to be fined -- the Eleventh would not preempt enforcement or any defenses by ruling the law facially unconstitutional, it said last year.

The Law's Questionable Origin

The law was passed in part out of fear that Obamacare would result in the development of a national gun registry -- via, somehow, your medical records. In terms of Obamacare conspiracy theories, it's not quite as bad as death panels, but also not very connected to reality. (National gun registries have been theorized as a way to limit interstate gun trafficking, but would not be established through federal background checks or prostate exams.)

Gun owners' privacy concerns were bolstered when, in 2011, a Florida couple claimed their doctor refused to see them after they refused to answer routine questions about firearms.

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