FL Doctor Gag Bill Pits Second Amendment Against the First

Thanks to republican Florida state rep Jason Brodeur and his friends at the National Rifle Association, CS/HB 155 seems headed for full legislative consideration. The bill would make it illegal for doctors to ask their patients about their firearms. This is a bone-headed move on many levels. Here’s the bill’s text . . .

Privacy of Firearms Owners: Prohibits physicians or other medical personnel from inquiring, either verbally or in writing, about ownership of firearm by patient or family of patient or presence of firearm in patient’s private home or other domicile; prohibits conditioning receipt of medical treatment or care on person’s willingness or refusal to disclose personal & private information unrelated to medical treatment in violation of individual’s privacy contrary to specified provisions; prohibits entry of certain information concerning firearms into medical records or disclosure of such information by specified individuals; provides noncriminal penalties; provides for prosecution of violations; requires informing Attorney General of prosecution of violations; provides for collection of fines by Attorney General in certain circumstances; provides exemptions.

First of all, what business does the state have setting the limits on a conversation between a doctor and his or her patient? This idea is a clear violation of the First Amendment. And the legal shield known as “doctor – patient privilege,” which allows people to seek medical and/or psychological help without fear of legal blowback. Which encourages them to seek that help. Which keeps them on society’s radar. Which is a good thing.

Except when it isn’t. But that’s the way the constitutional cookie crumbles—and there are exceptions to the doctor – patient privilege designed to protect society from mass murderers, child molesters, etc. I can see no societal interest in preventing doctors from asking patients about firearms.

Common sense says if your doctor asks you about some aspect of your life that you consider out of bounds, whether that’s sexual habits or gun ownership, you can look him or her in the eye and say “I don’t consider that any of your business.” Done.

Sure, some doctors might—indeed have—used the information to terminate care for a patient. That’s another issue, quite apart from this absurd proactive gag order. Any doctor who boots a patient for owning guns, or taking offense at questions about their storage or use, faces the judgement of the free market. Especially in Florida, for goodness sake.

Meanwhile, talk about your law of unintended consequences . . .

What if a patient wants to talk to their doctor about firearms, perhaps in relation to suicidal urges? Is that prohibited? And what if the patient says “Doc, I’m thinking of killing myself?” Does the physician have to say, “Well, I’m prohibited by law from asking you about firearms in the home, so let’s just say are you thinking about killing yourself with something other than a firearm?”

I understand the desire to stop doctors from creating a firearms registry. I get that some gun owners find firearms-related questions unacceptably intrusive. But this law seems like closing the barn door before there’s even a horse in the stable.

CS/HB 155 is a dumb piece of legislation that fails to recognize the primacy of the First Amendment. It should have never seen the light of day. Let’s hope it dies in committee.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

22 Responses to FL Doctor Gag Bill Pits Second Amendment Against the First

  1. avatar2yellowdogs says:

    ANY restriction of first amendment rights is heinous and should be resisted at all levels. I’m guessing that, should this legislative crap sandwich be enacted, it won’t pass muster, judicially speaking.

    Whether it’s political speech, discussing abortion options with a doctor or now guns, any elected bone-head who thinks the solution is restricting first amendment rights needs to be recalled, tarred and feathered with all possible haste. And I’ll be glad to donate the feathers.

  2. avatarJohn says:

    But at the same time you have doctors, especially pediatricians, responding to their medical associations’ calls for the patient inquiry. I recall several years ago the APA included questions about firearms in the home, along with subsequent anti-firearm counseling for the parents if the answer was yes, in discussions between the child and the pediatrician. Its no damned business of the APA or the pediatrician so this proposed law attempts to keep these kind of questions, and “counseling” from happening.

    If we could keep the busy-body, do-gooder, “progressives” out of our lives then we wouldn’t need to think about laws like this,

    Just the other side of the issue.

    • avatarNCG says:

      The important distinction here is that no on is compelling you to answer these questions – you can refuse to answer, or you can lie without any consequences.

      The idea that you want the government to protect you from somebody asking you questions that you find offensive, asked by people you don’t particularly like, is beyond ironic.

      I answered truthfully about my guns, and my kids’ doctor asked me if they were locked up. I said “yes,” and she said “good.”

      • avatar2yellowdogs says:

        NCG is exactly right. If your doc asks you those questions, you have the right to say, “sorry doc, that’s none of your damned business and I’d appreciate your butting out.” If they give you trouble about it, it’s time to find a new doc.

        No one needs to be protected from a doctor’s questions. If you don’t have enough testicular fortitude to tell him to buzz off, that’s a patient problem.

      • avatarJohn says:

        That’s like saying mandatory gun registration is not keeping you from owning a gun! This is a slippery slope. Eventually ALL medical records are going to be electronic, just what is going to keep this information, who owns what guns?, from other sources? All it takes is for one LEAK and the damage is done.

        • avatar2yellowdogs says:

          No. It isn’t. Again, no one is forcing you to answer the question. If you don’t answer the question, there’s nothing in the patient record.

        • avatardivemedic says:

          The fact that you refuse to answer is an answer in itself. After all, if there were no firearms in your house, you wouldn’t mind answering no, now would you?

  3. avatarAndrew Snyder says:

    I admit I have been asked this, but it was by my kid’s doctor. I remember being shocked and wondering why they would be asking if there are guns in the house because my kid was having a routine checkup.

    I didn’t want to say yes because I didn’t think it was any of their business, but I didn’t want to lie and say no either. So I did what any rational person stuck in a damned if you do damned if you don’t scenario, I resorted to comedy. I said “I never thought of that, I guess I should have a gun in the house to protect my kid.” The nurse laughed, and then assumed I was saying no and marked it as such on her sheet. I didn’t lie and I didn’t give information they didn’t need to know either.

    FYI even though I have at least one gun on every floor of my house (3 floors), they are all in safes. Most are fully loaded in quick access safes, and I do carry in my house. I am safe, and my kid is too!

  4. avatarstateisevil says:

    The NRA often has a warped sense of priorities. They pushed hard for this bill here; even harder than for open carry and school carry. Open Carry is looking good but school carry died. One senator killed it and the NRA has not yet skinned him politically. Hopefully they’re just waiting for the session to end and tackle it later.

  5. I don’t think we need a bill to protect those parents who didn’t have strength to tell their pediatricians that it was none of their business whether they had a gun in their home or not.

    The government has no business telling two private parties what should or should not be discussed.

  6. Well, I guess those who call you guys a bunch of NRA stooges are all wrong. I agree this is going way over the line.

    • avatarRuffRidr says:

      By “those who call”, don’t you mean yourself? I am glad you can finally admit to being wrong.

  7. avatarJohn Fritz says:

    My doctor is an ammo reloading guru. We talk guns every three months when I see him. Were I in FLA, would passage of this bill mean he couldn’t ask me how his shell casing prep advice had worked for me?

  8. avatarRyan Finn says:

    Yea this is a ridiculous idea. Why do you even need a law for this well known issue? Just tell the doctor “No” or “It’s none of your business and I don’t see how that question is medically relevant.”

  9. avatarMartin Albright says:

    The other problem with this bill is that it unneccessarily picks a fight with doctors. Rightly or wrongly, this will be seen (and portrayed to the voters) as a gun owners-vs- Doctors issue, and it’s hard to see how gun owners come out on top of this one. At the very least we get painted (once again) as paranoid nutjobs, worst case the Florida AMA takes this as their cue to get heavily involved in gun control (on the pro-control side, natch.)

    What a difference a decade makes, huh? 12 – 13 years ago we were fighting a rearguard action to try to hang onto our rights and now we’re so confident that we’re going out and looking for political battles. I admire the confidence, but I’m not happy about the choice of targets in this case. I’d rather see gun rights activists engage in an education campaign (educating doctors that guns are not the exclusive property of nutjobs and suicidal/homicidal people and also educating gun owners to “know their rights”) than this ill-advised law.

    The law is a blunt instrument, not a scalpel. It should not be used in these kinds of subtle cultural battles.

  10. avatarMiguel says:

    This is not a First Amendment Issue. This is not about two individuals engaged in the free exchange of ideas but a person of authority and for the most part untrained inquiring and offering his dictum to somebody.
    Professionals are regulated by a code and the law against giving professional advice on things they are not trained for. I am still amazed at the latitude we give to doctors (who kill more people than criminals) to give advice on subjects that have very little or no idea.
    Will you take advice from a NRA Certified Instructor about how to treat coronary disease? No. Yet we are blindly defending a doctor’s “right” to tell people they shouldn’t own guns. Absurd.
    Now, if doctors were truly worried about gun safety, they would refer patients to trained professionals called Firearms Instructors in Home Firearms Safety as they do when they send you to an specialist for other ailments they do not have the expertise.

    • avatarIGB says:

      Miguel, I’m sorry you feel this way. You need to find yourself a new doctor. There is some misplaced anger here. Doctors don’t kill people, but people do die as a fact of life. Doctor’s remain human regardless of how long they go to school and train to primarily do no harm and help the sick get better.

      Doctors (in general) have no agenda with regards to gun rights. If the pediatrician has a question on a survey, it’s typically to remind a parent to lock dangerous things up. Please refer to Farago’s frequent posts on bone headed parents. Yes, it is part of a pediatricians job to knock a bit of parenting sense into parents wether that has to do with infant feeding or locking up a handgun in the home. That’s not to say that there are individual physicians who have personal opinions just like you, but you don’t have to see them.

      • avatarRT says:

        “If the pediatrician has a question on a survey, it’s typically to remind a parent to lock dangerous things up.”

        If that was the case, why don’t they have a question that says “Does your home have a swimming pool?”, or any number of things that have proven more dangerous to kids?

        Because that’s not the reason and you know it.

  11. avatarAnon says:

    NRA – mixing up another batch of tasty kool-aid for themselves. Ugh….so glad I didn’t renew :)

  12. avatarDr. A says:

    As both a physician and a strong second amendment supporter, this law is offensive and counter productive. I guess I’ll stop leaving American Rifleman in my waiting room. Can’t talk about the articles now anyway.

  13. avatarFaceman says:

    I’m a Florida physician and a gun owner/enthusiast. I agree that this bill is idiotic and is absolutely unconstitutional. I talk to my patients all the time about firearms… mostly to remind them to use proper hearing protection! And that is something I’m well-trained in. (And Miguel is off his rocker to believe that doctors “kill” people more than criminals. Please, Miguel, never ever go to a doctor…you’re obviously better off going to a criminal.)

    Sure, the APA has an equally silly position on firearms in the home, but we don’t need laws telling us what we can and can’t ask. Absurd. Note that the first amendment came before the second.

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