The old media has tried to frame opposition to a Florida law protecting gun owners from snooping physicians as somehow limiting the MDs’ free speech, but it was never about that at all. The law was a reaction to doctors inappropriately asking questions about their patients’ gun ownership, and potentially adding that information to government databases. This is commonly known as a “boundary violation” where a professional uses his power in inappropriate ways. But much to the chagrin of gun control advocates, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law on Friday . . .

Of course, it’s possible that the ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. From the startribune.com, Marion Hammer, a proponent of the law speaks:

“The intent is to protect the privacy of firearms owners and to stop the political interrogation of gun owners and the children of gun owners when they seek medical care,”

And a majority of the judges agreed:

“The act simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care,” states the opinion written by U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Tjoflat.

From the decision:

The Act seeks to protect patients’ privacy by restricting irrelevant inquiry and record-keeping by physicians regarding firearms. The Act recognizes that when a patient enters a physician’s examination room, the patient is in a position of relative powerlessness. The patient must place his or her trust in the physician’s guidance, and submit to the physician’s authority. In order to protect patients, physicians have for millennia been subject to codes of conduct that define the practice of good medicine and affirm the responsibility physicians bear. In keeping with these traditional codes of conduct—which almost universally mandate respect for patient privacy—the Act simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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58 Responses to Court Upholds FL Law Protecting Gun Owners from Doctor Abuse

  1. I don’t get why they would ask in the first place? Gun ownership about to be codified as a medical condition? Trying to bolster the medical discalification list for gun ownership??

    Glad to see it stopped.

    • Gun ownership about to be codified as a medical condition? With many liberal doctors and politicians it already is.

    • Because, if you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s the ultimate goal of authoritarian collectivists to make virtually everything a public health issue, including gun ownership, CO2 emissions, recreational activities, occupations, diet, indoor air quality and just about any lifestyle choices anyone can make. And, since they are already on the verge of total control and regulation almost anything related to health care, there would be at least some control over every material item you might own and every activity in which you might engage.

      Personal liberty is what they say it is.

        • Thus the effort by the AMA and the American Pediatrics Association to push such questioning on the basis that guns are a public health issue by claiming that a physician has a “duty” to question and advise his patients about proper storage of firearms–and to further recommend to parents with children in the house not keep firearms in the house at all, and Obama’s directive to the CDC to study the “public health” aspects of “gun violence.” A the primary reason the law was passed was to stop this back door attack on gun ownership.

        • and this doctors questions have been used several times now to take firearms away from veterans who have no crime records , or grave mental problems ,,, WHY ? it is all about BACKDOOR disarmament……….they can not get around 2A … so we ban firearms from China, NOW Russia. and Veterans who would be leaders in a SHTF stuff… It’s all about the NEW WORLD ORDER government… Follow the money……and may GOD wake up America before it’s too LATE!

        • Scrubula, some of us have argued for years that the whole point of nationalized health care like the ACA was never about quality of care or cost of care. It was always about maximizing control over people.

    • Ive asked plenty of patients if they own guns, mostly parents of young children that I see alongside my preceptor. I don’t put anything in the record at all. I talk to parents about their firearms because I’m an advocate for their health and the health of their children and encouraging safe firearm ownership and storage is part of my job the same way I talk to parents about supervising their children around swimming pools and wearing helmets when they ride bikes. For many doctors, especially gun owning ones, encouraging our patients to be safe with their weapons, ESPECIALLY around their children, is an obligation they take seriously.

      • Huh?

        Do they have classes in medical school about the finer points of firearms storage? What makes you think you know more about the topic than your patients?

        And if the parent says they don’t have any guns, do you lecture them about how irresponsible it is not to protect their families from violent thugs?

        Do you ask patients if they have fire extinguishers? Electric outlets? Ladders? Each of those things kills more children than firearms.

        Methinks you have a warped opinion of what your real job is.

        • A certain number of physicians honestly believe that they have godlike superpowers.

        • I have to say I’m with John on this one. Being the parent of a 6 year old. Firearms storage balanced with ease of access can be a tough nut to crack. Putting it on the top of a book case doesn’t cut in my house anymore. I think having this conversation with your kids pediatrician is on par with how hot is your hot water tank set too, don’t put your kid in the front seat even in a car seat, or not to leave your kid in a car unattended (especially on hot days). These are things not taught in medical school. But are topics that parents new and old have to think about. As long as the conversation about firearms is in NOT put in the medical records I’m personally OK with talking with them about it. You always have the right to say “That is not an issue in our house. Next question….” That is your way a telling them you have it under control.
          Besides I’m not sure how we are going to keep or make (depending on where you live) gun ownership normal if we are not willing to have these types of conversations.
          For a side note I have had to teach my kid when is it appropriate to talk about guns by telling him “guns are like private parts. We don’t show them and we don’t talk about them to people outside of our family” and that pointing your finger is ok or putting a thumbs up is ok but the pointing your finger with the thumb up is not ok.

        • And let’s not forget the BIGGEST KILLERS the swim pool and the BEACH kills more kids and adults everyday that guns etc…..So why is pools and the beach not BANNED???????????????

        • I don’t have a problem with that PROVIDED – It would be along the lines of a general sheet on storage of poisons, securing heavy objects that could fall on kids, etc. It can provide links if they have any questions. They can read it or toss it, and ZERO goes on ANY document.

          I draw the line on any record of it.

        • I never claimed that I was the end all be all of knowledge of firearms storage. That said, I could train a four year old to say “If you have firearms in your home I strongly recommend you store them so that they are not accessible to your young children and that you teach safe handling when you feel its appropriate.”

          Counseling about home safety for children is an easy thing to do and should be comprehensive. Dont want to talk to me about it? Fine. If fullfilled my responsibility by trying to counsel you, take the advice or leave it.

          And yes, I do talk to my patients about other safety hazards in the home. Baby/toddler proofing, storage of chemicals, etc.

          My real job is to be an advocate for my patients health, to provide health services and to educate my patients about their health, or lack thereof. There’s a reason we focus on preventive care. Its easier for me to counsel about proper storage of cleaning supplies than it is to bring a child back from poisoning.

          Bottom line, if you’re doc is rude or presses you inappropriately about firearms use or storage you should leave them.

        • Lot’s of docs, I’m sure, discuss it, as does John. In the context described it’s not inappropriate.

          And yes, they’ll be talking about other dangers, as well. I don’t know if he’s a pediatrician or a GP/FP that also sees kids, but mentioning guns certainly falls into the same category of outlets, extinguisher, etc. when it comes to baby-proofing or child-proofing or elderly-proofing a home for new or young parent.

          In fact, this is a great illustration about why laws like the one struck down are so bad. The doctor-patient relationship is just that, a relationship. When you try to make docs into government spies you’ve undermined that relationship. Appropriate conversations now become suspect and dries up. I’d argue that it even leads to more gun injuries – just like most gun laws do.

          I’ve talked guns with my doctor. She actually misses shooting since her kids have moved up from Scouting. As far as she’s concerned it’s a great way to de-stress and that was helpful for me justifying the cost of ammo to my wife… 😀

      • Well it’s all well and good that you are choosing to take it upon yourself to push an idea that you believe to be beneficial. And safe weapon storage is certainly a good idea. This idea isn’t the actual problem, it’s the fact that the anti liberty movement within government are trying to use you as a tool for their purposes. Look up how the current occupant of the White House has been pushing to make the second amendment a public heath crisis again. Something that it never has been, and that was banned by law for many years after several REALLY piss poor studies were produced by the CDC. Studies that, to this day, are still used by anti-gun freaks on the internet as justification for gun control.

        And let’s not forget that one of the ‘features’ of ObamaCare is… nationalization of medical records. And honestly… can ANYONE trust the government to not file those records away for future shenanigans? I know there’s a good 100K veterans that found themselves blacklisted from gun ownership after they tried to get treatment for their PTSD related issues.

        Once again I commend you for doing what you can to do what you think is helpful. But to be blunt you do NOT need to have that information. And don’t kid yourself. What little good you might do will be vastly outweighed by how much damage it can do.

        • I agree. I dont need the information, and Id never put it in the record other than to say “counseled about child safety in the home.

          You make an excellent point, and that’s the reason so many docs are pushing against nationalization of healthcare. I certainly dont want to be a tool of the government and I definitely dont want Washington bureaucrats to have access to my patients information. I want quite the opposite.

      • My children’s pediatrician asked questions about gun ownership, tobacco, and alcohol in my house once. I curtly informed him that my children don’t smoke, drink, or play with guns at home. I also informed him that further questioning along those lines would result in a complaint being lodged with the state medical board. He thought it wise to try asking my six year old these questions when he thought I was out of earshot which nearly resulted in assault charges for me, and a trip to the big-people doctor for him.

        Mind your business, Doc. How people raise their children is their business, curing the sick and injured is yours. Busybodies trying to put their filthy rat claws on my kids are liable to lose a limb.

      • John that makes you a Fascist. And WAY out of line. If you’re my doc you are fired, with a complaint to the State Board.

      • The correct answer to questions of this sort of invasion of privacy is “None ya.” When the doctor asks for clarification simply state “None ya fu&%ing business.”

        • I agree. If your doc doesnt respect your privacy you should ditch him or her. Ive had plenty of folks tell me to screw off after asking about firearms or smoking or alcohol. To me, the best thing a doc can do is make a quick, non intrusive recommendation like “I recommend storing firearms safely” or “Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for your health right now” and moving on. Trust has to be built in the doctor patient relationship and its important not to step over bounds.

    • It’s the philosophy that Hilary wrote about in her book “It Takes a Village”. It states the principles of a society engineered to work together for common goals embraced by the government and it assumes the goals are shared by the villagers. The villagers are simple folk who, despite developing cutting edge technology that can feed, clothe and shelter the world, struggle to provide the basic requirements for themselves and their families and require the government to enforce strict social engineering laws. She stole the idea from Karl Marx. The sequel is in the works; “It Takes a Village of Armed Citizens to Keep the Government from Changing Rights into Privileges”. The idea is stolen from Thomas Jefferson. Hilary will not be the author.

  2. The opposition to this law makes a very clear statement; they think your gun ownership IS their business.

    • I’ll be getting a new doctor soon, previous one retired. Have no intention of discussing guns with him or anyone else I don’t know well. It is to me in a similar situations where stopped by a cop for traffic violations – very limited in what they need to know.

  3. My doc asks me questions about guns all the time. Usually goes something like this:

    “Hey John, any new toys since you were in last? Got my hands on a sweet new Ed Brown last month from a guy on GunBroker…””

    • The world where a Doc asking you about your guns was ok died when Obamacare passed and took Doctor choice away. Random functionary #53432 gets yeses and nos.

  4. They really want a
    Universal Registry
    Makes you wonder why…

    It’s almost as if they think they are going to need to know where each and every gun is on some date in the near future. I wonder why that is…

    • Exactly! And they are using everyone they can, in every profession they can, to build their list.

  5. This is about universal registration.

    Your patient medical records are being converted to electronic form, and will be accessible by the government.

    The potential for government abuse of this information is enormous. Getting gun ownership information into this database will allow the government to track every gun in the country.

    The sneaky little bastards never rest. If they can’t get Universal Background Checks (and Universal Registration), they will accomplish the same thing by other means. If the government has a power, they will find a way to abuse it. And Universal Registration is one of their most fervent desires.

  6. my doc asks about my guns, but that is because he is in the Air Force Reserves as a flight surgeon and is into shooting as well.

    as for my cigar habit, he asked me once if I smoked cigars, and I told him never to ask that f’ing question again. End of problem.

    • If you are seeing this doctor concerning your health, then I would think that asking you about your smoking habits would not be inappropriate.

  7. If my doc ever asked me about gun ownership, I would ask him about his (and spouse’s) sex toy ownership…

  8. In psychiatry we ask because guns are a very lethal method of suicide (where overdose often is not successful). I don’t agree with asking everyone, but if I send a depressed single guy home, if he has guns I’d advise him to have family store them until he’s feeling better. I strongly disagree with a primary care doctor asking just for the hell of it.

    • I see your point, but, do you also ask the patient if he or she has an automobile, knives, any rope laying around, poison, razor blades, plastic bags, or pills they could overdose with?
      Point being, you can kill yourself in any number of ways.

      • Pills don’t work too well at killing oneself- people don’t take enough/end up surviving, hanging often fails because no one can tie a knot anymore, it’s psychologically really hard to cut yourself deep enough to hit an artery unless you already are a long-time self-cutter, and a lot of people are too scared of heights to jump.

        The fact is, firearms are an extremely effective method to kill oneself- more than any other. I say this as a full supporter of the RKBA. But just because I support gun rights doesn’t mean we can’t accept the scientific reality.

      • If he doesn’t want a malpractice lawsuit in the case of a successful suicide, he darn well better ask about those other things, as well.

        And you notice, he brings it up to the patient’s family? You don’t want to give that type of patient ideas.

    • Suicide rates are independent of gun ownership rates. Yes, guns are very effective at ending a life, but the success of any given suicide attempt isn’t univariate. In fact, it’s multivariate; consisting as well of the probabilities of being interrupted and of receiving prompt and substantial treatment, of employing multiple methods at once, etc.

      Given all that, the only relevant risk factor is the individual’s degree of seriousness in killing themselves. That factor alone is so important as to render the other apparently independent factors as essentially dependent variables, because they’re all derivative of that same seriousness level.

      Not to get into the whole inside baseball of statistics, multicollinearity and confounding variables, but the bottom line here is that if you have a seriously self-destructive patient, that in itself is what you need to confirm and address. At that point, whether they have guns is immaterial to their attempts and success at suicide.

  9. My dentist is a die-hard duck hunter. Any anti gun or anti hunter would recognize that the moment they step into his office. I will talk guns and hunting with him all day long. But if my doctor were to ask me a question about guns out of the blue… I’d just lie.

  10. That law is not worth the paper it is written on, I got asked at the VA. and at a urgent care about guns, any bad dreams etc. etc. , so I lie or do not go to the doctors any more ….

  11. Never, ever tell a doctor you are depressed! This is almost a sure way for the Gestapo to show up at your doorstep with a warrant to confiscate your guns!

    • I had a major, major problem with this a few years ago.

      Riding 6000 miles a year or so, my body is used to training and riding at least two or three times a week. I had a knee injury that kept me off the bike, couldn’t run, and had a damned time walking. This lasted for nearly two years.

      My body went into withdrawal from all the chemical side effects of endurance training. Having The Girl being a clinician, and me being decently educated, I recognized all of the symptoms, and knew that I wasn’t going crazy, but that my hormones/etc were off balance.

      Soon as self-defeating commentary/monologue started, I knew it was depression, and started on Wellbutrin. I feared being prescribed an anti-depression medicine, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to battle a chemical imbalance with therapeutic/homeopathic methods alone.

      Family doctor explicitly understood the circumstances of the need, and we discussed the documentation well. He does not know I own firearms, but we’re outside of the office acquaintances enough to know that privacy for anyone, and especially me is highly valued.

      Spent nine months on it, got back into the groove, and started kayaking for my thrills. Back on the bike, and everything is peachy.

      If some authority would look at my medical records and determine I am unworthy of handling/owning/operating firearms, I don’t know how screwed I’d be, but it still worries me a bit.

      • Interesting story, glad you came out of it OK. “Documentation” can really do you in. That’s what got the Germans in trouble a lot, right after WW2. They had a habit of “writing” everything down which led to the convictions of some of the top ranks.

      • I took up cycling after a foot injury made walking painful. I ride less than you, about 80 miles a week. While I was laid up after having oral surgery done, by day 4 my legs got a rather uncomfortable “crawling” sensation and my general anxiety level jumped way up. At day 5, I said screw this, I’m riding! Piloting an extremely nimble machine with tires at 120 psi while zapped out on Oxycodone was, well, interesting. The opiate made me nauseous and I kept the water bottle very handy to wash the bile out of my mouth as I was puking every few miles.

        Taking up cycling was the very best thing for my overall feeling of well-being. Being in constant pain (from the foot injury) was very detrimental to my overall emotional state, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time The cycling does wonders for that.

  12. The real “fly in the ointment” was that it was directed at children, (after all it’s for the children), pediatricians were asking little Timmy and Lisa if mommy or daddy had guns. Yes, it was that devious.

    As an adult, we can say none of your business Doc! But target the questions at kids?
    Ruthless….

    • I posted above about this exact thing. The very idea of some ivy league dirtbag deciding he/she knows better for my kids than I do makes me sweat. Targeting children in this manner isn’t much different than good ol’ Joe Camel in my opinion.

  13. Why not just lie about it and say ‘I don’t own any’? Lying is a perfectly acceptable course of action in this scenario. Just lie to the snooping bastards, be convincing, and feel good about it. It’s not district court it’s a doctor’s office. In this day and age lying is the way forward anyway. Sad, yet true.

  14. As a diabetic I see my regular doctor 4 times a year or more.
    He knows I carry and has never said a word to negative or positive.
    He knows its none of his business and has no reason to fear me or my gun.

    Should someone ask my opinion on guns personally I say I don’t discuss guns or politics. Not if we wish to remain friends.

  15. I’ve only had one conversation about guns with my physician. It was with my urologist, and you gotta be nice to your urologist since he’s the guy who’s going to check your prostate.

    He asked what I did for a living, I told him and he asked if I was a member of the NRA. I said sure and he said, “I agree with the NRA. People should be able to have a gun if they want one.”

    Then he stuck his finger up my culo.

  16. There’s a lot of confusion about what the law actually says.

    Here’s a text:

    http://www.flsenate.gov/laws/statutes/2011/790.338

    http://laws.flrules.org/2011/112
    —————————————————————————————-
    A health care practitioner licensed under chapter 456 or a health care
    facility licensed under chapter 395 shall respect a patient’s right to privacy
    and should refrain from making a written inquiry or asking questions
    concerning the ownership of a firearm or ammunition by the patient or by a
    family member of the patient, or the presence of a firearm in a private home
    or other domicile of the patient or a family member of the patient.
    Notwithstanding this provision, a health care practitioner or health care
    facility that in good faith believes that this information is relevant to the
    patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others, may make such a
    verbal or written inquiry.

    A health care practitioner licensed under chapter 456 or a health care
    facility licensed under chapter 395 may not discriminate against a patient
    based solely upon the patient’s exercise of the constitutional right to own and
    possess firearms or ammunition.”
    —————————————————————————————-

    In effect, if a doctor believes that knowing about a person’s gun-owning status is important, they can ask and even record it. The only thing they can’t do is refuse to treat a patient based solely on them owning guns.

    I think this is actually okay. There are many scenarios where knowing whether a person or their family owns a gun is extremely relevant to care. One of the factors that is most associated with a completed suicide by a teenage male is access to a gun (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=9213157). To be clear- suicide in teenagers is generally an impulsive act after a relatively short and benign course of depression/dysthymia- they break up with their gf, their parents yell at them, whatever- they grab a gun and shoot themselves in anger- NOT in despair/hopelessness. If they are prevented from doing so, they’ll probably live a full life with zero elevated risk of suicide. Compare this to an adult or elderly male, where taking away guns is less likely to work since the problems are more structural and difficult to “treat” (depressed for five years. Wife is deceased, kids don’t talk to you, no friends left. no gun? jump off a bridge). This elevated risk shows up in guns more than any other method- it’s pretty hard to slash yourself with a knife or razer unless you are already a chronic cutter. Hanging has a surprisingly high failure rate, overdosing is not too lethal either, and jumping is also hard to do psychologically.

    Especially in the scenario of mild teen depression, I think doctors ought to inquire if the parents own guns, and whether or not they keep them locked up in the house when the kid is at home. I would recommend that someone body carry inside the house for the duration of any danger period while their kid is depressed, and not give their kid access codes to the gun safe. This will come at a cost- what if the house is attacked and only the kid is home? But that is a decision to be made by the patient, not the doctor. We can only recommend. There is no state in which doctors can remove guns from the house if the kid is suicidal, and no medical group is pushing for that authority. Whether taking away guns works if it’s the adult who is suicidal is far more controversial- I don’t think the evidence supports it long term, but others disagree.

  17. Had a coworker that lived in the local ‘hood’. Asked him once if he had a gun. He replied in the negative. I was in shock, and started to tell him how unsafe that was for him. He immediately stopped me and said, ‘Listen to my answer. I do not own ‘A’ gun. I own several.’ Smart man.

  18. I love those who would complain to the state board about a currently accepted broad practice. I do agree that it’s none of our business which patients own guns, so push for that change nationally, don’t blame the freakin duck-stepping doc who doesn’t know better, and this is coming from one if the former duck-steppers himself. .. Now to the Ed Brown owner… Compensating much?

  19. Do you mean the same “medical field” that kills 300% more people with malpractice and maleficence
    than ALL the gun deaths combined. The same medical field that calls patriotism and American pride a mental condition. Do you mean the same medical field that ignores the natural healing powers of herbs in favor of astronomically priced chemicals with 100 times the side effects that do as much damage to the body as most maladies. No credibility.

  20. What a coincidence, I am just starting to read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – and don’t forget:

    Big Brother is Watching You! 😉

  21. Uh, do you barrel-suckers realize that this law seems to make it illegal for a physician to advise a patient to get a gun for self-protection? Good job, NRA!!

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