TALLAHASSEE (FOX 13) - In an 8-3 decision, Florida judges overturned the 2011 Firearm Owner's Privacy Act on Thursday. The law prevented state doctors from talking to patients about guns.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and its lobbyists originally argued that doctors were overstepping their boundaries by questioning patients about gun ownership. Thousands of doctors disputed the law, arguing that it is their responsibility to educate patients on safety within the home, including gun safety.
“It’s not taking a stand against guns or for guns," said Dr. Joseph Perno, a pediatric emergency medical care physician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St Petersburg. “Talking about gun safety is an integral part of my job as a pediatrician, keeping kids safe, and it’s no different than talking to families about pool safety here in Florida or talking about poison prevention."
While NRA lobbyists have contended that a patient's gun ownership is irrelevant to their overall health, many Florida doctors have said being unable to ask patients if they have guns in the home hindered their ability to help suicidal patients and educate parents on keeping guns out of the reach of children.
“The beauty of children is their curiosity, and they are curious. They will find weapons, and we want to make sure that those weapons are stowed away, locked away, and that they’re not loaded," said Dr. Thomas Nakagawa, director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, where his staff has treated children rushed to the emergency room with accidental gunshot wounds.
The Florida court ruling states that a doctor's choice to educate patients about gun safety is not harassment or a violation of one's Second Amendment right to gun ownership, but keeping doctors from discussing safety risks was found to be a violation of the physician's First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
The court upheld a provision in the law allowing patients to refuse to answer a doctor's gun-related questions.