ABA calls for review of Florida gun ordinance

For the second time, the American Bar Association has filed an amicus brief asking the full U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to review and reverse a three-judge panel’s decision upholding Florida’s “Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act.”

The 2011 act bars doctors and other health care practitioners from asking or recording information in a patient’s medical record about gun ownership without individualized medical “relevance.”

The ABA previously filed an amicus brief in support of full 11th Circuit review after the panel issued its first 2-1 opinion in July 2014.

The panel subsequently vacated that opinion and, in July 2015, issued a new 2-1 opinion in which the majority concluded that the act is within “the longstanding authority of states to define the boundaries of good medical practice.”

The new ABA brief again requests full 11th Circuit review, and asserts the panel’s majority opinion is contrary to U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

The revised ABA brief addresses the panel’s new opinion and notes that its “decision incorrectly upholds a restriction on truthful speech by regulated professionals, under the guise of regulating the medical profession.”

It is based on ABA policy adopted in 2012 that opposes “governmental actions and policies that limit the rights of physicians and other health care providers to inquire of their patients whether they possess guns and how they are secured in the home or to counsel their patients about the dangers of guns in the home and safe practices to avoid those dangers.”

The policy’s accompanying report reviews statistics and policies of medical health organizations that recommend gun safety counseling, especially in homes with children and other at-risk persons.

The ABA’s brief notes that preventive health care is a pillar of modern medicine, and legislation limiting the right of health care professionals to counsel their patients interferes with preventive care duties and violates the First Amendment rights of both health care practitioners and their patients.

The brief is in support of a group of doctors and Florida chapters of medical associations that challenged the Florida law.

The brief notes that the act is not needed to protect a patient’s medical privacy rights, which are already protected by several statutes, as well as the doctor-patient privilege.

The ABA's amicus brief in Wollschlaeger, et al. v. Governor of the State of Florida is available here.