How the Docs vs. Glocks ruling affects physicians
Pediatricians, for example are concerned about accidental injury from firearms, while psychiatrists’ patients are at risk of self-harm. But it is difficult to legally define exactly when a physician’s concern should be strong enough to warrant a discussion about firearms.
In the meantime, patients and second amendment rights advocates support the law as a necessary protection for patient rights, arguing that physicians are in a position of power and influence, and thus could pressure patients when asking about personal information, could compel patients to make unwanted decisions if they feel that they are being harassed by their physicians, or could result in physicians rejecting patients who own firearms.
This issue was initially brought to the courts as a response to several patient complaints of physician harassment regarding gun ownership and a patient’s report of physician refusal of care because the patient owned a gun.
Further reading: How physicians can deal with policy uncertainty
In 2011, Florida legislators created the bill1, which later passed as the Firearms Owners' Privacy Act. The law was overturned in 2012, and then in 2014, a suit2 was filed to protect the rights of patients who own firearms.
That suit resulted in a reinstatement of the law, which was overturned again as unconstitutional by the courts in February.
As the law was initiated in response to perceived infringement on gun owners’ rights, Jason Goldman,MD, FACP, who has been involved in the case in Florida as governor of the Florida chapter of the American College of Physicians, explains that the issue has never been about second amendment rights, but rather about first amendment rights.
Goldman emphasizes that free and open communication between doctors and patients is necessary for good patient care, stating “patients should feel comfortable discussing issues with their doctors, while doctors should feel comfortable asking questions of their patients.”
While other states have not passed laws preventing doctors from discussing or recording information about patient gun ownership, a few have made preliminary moves in that direction.
Other states, including Montana, Minnesota and Missouri, have laws that limit the collection of information about firearms. And, as far as the current status of the Florida law—this issue can still go to the U.S. Supreme Court for appeal, and, according to experts in the field who spoke off the record, lawmakers believe that such a step is indeed likely.
2. Harvard Law Review, Wollschlaeger v. Governor of Florida, Jan 12, 2015