Health Law

11th Circuit upholds 'Docs v. Glocks' law in First Amendment challenge

A federal appeals court is allowing enforcement of a Florida law that prevents physicians from talking with patients about guns in their homes when it is irrelevant to medical care.

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday vacated an injunction that had prevented the law from taking effect and found in a facial challenge that the law does not violate the First Amendment. The Associated Press and the Daily Report (reg. req.) have stories; How Appealing links to additional coverage and the opinion (PDF).

The law says physicians should not ask whether a patient or patient’s family owns guns, unless the physician has a good-faith belief that the “information is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others.” The law also bans irrelevant gun information from being entered into medical records. Violation of the law, dubbed “Docs v. Glocks,” constitutes grounds for disciplinary action, and doctors can be fined or lose their licenses, reports the AP.

In a 2-1 opinion, the 11th Circuit said the law “codifies that that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care.” The law “is a legitimate regulation of professional conduct,” the 11th Circuit said, and any burden on physician speech is “entirely incidental.”

“Plaintiffs remain free—as physicians always have been—to assert their First Amendment rights as an affirmative defense in any actions brought against them,” the court said. “But we will not, by striking down the act, effectively hand plaintiffs a declaration that such a defense will be successful.”

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