Court: Doctors Can Ask Patients About Their Guns

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a Florida law prohibiting doctors from interrogating patients about their gun ownership was in violation of the First Amendment. In the ruling, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that doctors have the right to discuss gun safety with their patients and that it did not infringe on the right to bear arms.

“The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right,” wrote Judge Adalberto Jordan. “There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.”

Fellow Judge William Pryor concurred, insisting that the First Amendment was there to protect opinions from every corner of the ideological spectrum.

“The promise of free speech is that even when one holds an unpopular point of view, the state cannot stifle it,” he wrote. “The price Americans pay for this freedom is that the rule remains unchanged regardless of who is in the majority.”

The law in question was passed in 2011 with significant backing from the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups. Republicans were concerned that doctors were violating the privacy rights of their patients and potentially putting their Second Amendment freedoms at risk. The law permitted physicians to ask about firearms usage if those questions were directly relevant to a concrete safety situation, but forbade them from digging around for information in the absence of any just cause.

The ACLU and medical groups objected to the law, however, insisting there was no evidence that doctors had been harassing their patients about guns in the first place.

“We are thrilled that the court has finally put to bed the nonsensical and dangerous idea that a doctor speaking with a patient about gun safety somehow threatens the right to own a gun,” said Howard Simon of the Florida ACLU.

The court ruled that patients were free to find another doctor if they didn’t like the questions asked of them.

“There is nothing in the record suggesting that patients who are bothered or offended by such questions are psychologically unable to choose another medical provider, just as they are permitted to do if their doctor asks too many questions about private matters like sexual activity, alcohol consumption, or drug use,” wrote the court.

This is not the troubling decision it would have been under a Hillary Clinton presidency, seeing as how Democrats have been pushing for years to turn gun ownership into a matter of public health. As long as doctors aren’t being encouraged – or even compelled – to ask these questions, and as long as the answers aren’t being reported to the health insurance companies, this ruling and the Second Amendment are not necessarily incompatible.

Even so, Republicans won’t be in charge forever, and the anti-gun agenda of the Democratic Party is always lurking in the background, looking for a way into our lives. Hopefully, this ruling won’t open the door.


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