Mary Anne Pazanowski reports:
In its third opinion in the same case, a majority of a three-judge panel ruled Dec. 14 that a state law prohibiting doctors from asking patients about gun ownership is valid.
In earlier rulings, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the Florida Firearm Owners Privacy Act was a valid regulation of physicians’ speech. It first said the law fell within the state’s right to regulate licensed professionals (145 HCDR, 7/29/14). The second time the panel looked at the law, it upheld it under the First Amendment’s intermediate scrutiny standard (146 HCDR, 7/30/15).
Read more on Bloomberg BNA.
This is a very serious case on a number of levels as it impacts a state’s ability to regulate licensed professional’s speech. The physicians have repeatedly sought a full-panel (en banc) review, but have been frustrated by the court hearing it as 3-judge panel.
Of great concern is that it does sound like the court is looking for excuses to justify the law:
The plaintiffs argued that the law didn’t serve the state’s interests in protecting Second Amendment rights because the speech in question didn’t interfere with those rights. The court disagreed, saying the argument “could not be farther off base.”
“It is of course an interference with Second Amendment rights for a trusted physician to tell his patient—for no medically relevant reason whatsoever—that it is unsafe to own a gun.” While the doctor’s statement may not stop the patient from owning a gun, it may chill the patient’s exercise of his or her rights—“and that is sufficient,” the court said.
Wow. Can we say, “s….t…..r…..e…..t….c…..h.”