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'Docs vs. Glocks' Upheld in 11th Circuit

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on December 17, 2015 6:58 AM

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has yet again deflected another free speech argument from a coalition of doctors who have opposed Florida's notorious 'Docs vs. Glocks' rule and upheld that state's law on grounds that it failed to satisfy strict scrutiny review.

The Firearms Owners Privacy Act, originally intended (we think) by the Florida legislature to get doctors to mind their own business has resulted in this bizarre tug-of-war between the First and Second Amendments. The legal issues themselves are enough to warrant cert. by the Supreme Court.

Do you Have a Pool? How About a Gun?

The drama all began when Dr. Chris Okonkwo, a licensed pediatrician, asked a 26-mother a battery of questions that related to the safety of the home and her children. One of those questions was "Do you own a firearm?" All the rest of the questions seemed prosaic enough: "Do you smoke?" or "Do you have a pool at home?" But the gun question seemed particularly off limits.

"Docs vs. Glocks"

Ullman, the mother in question, refused to answer. She justified her response by arguing that gun-ownership had nothing to do with safety, but pool ownership and smoking did. Little did Okonkwo know that the conservative Florida legislature would briskly pass the Firearms Owners Privacy Act (aka "Docs vs. Glocks"), on account that asking patients or patient's parents about gun-ownership was an infringement of Second Amendment rights. This recent ruling by the circuit court is the latest development in the controversy.

Compelling Interests

In its ruling, the Circuit Court found that while ostensibly an issue of free speech, the ostensible rights of physicians to inquire into the ownership of guns by their patients (and parents) is trumped by the compelling interest in protect patient privacy and protecting gun ownership. Thus it appears, even though free speech is implicated in the ruling and facts, the Second Amendment has triumphed.

Eventually, Florida's prohibition on doctor's asking patients about their gun status might eventually be a model for other states if it continues to survive review.

Recent Gun Attention

These are contentious times for guns rights issues. SCOTUS recently refused to rehear another challenge to the Highland Park ban on semi-automatic assault weapons. Pointedly, news polls have indicated that more Americans do not support assault weapons bans, perhaps for fears that such bans are ineffective at stopping large scale "lone wolf" attacks.

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