Dr. Timothy Wheeler, Director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, writes [via ammoland.com]:

I was glad to see Professor Eugene Volokh weigh in on Wollschlaeger vs. Governor of Florida, concerning the so-called Docs vs Glocks law in Florida. Volokh thinks the Court of Appeals erred in upholding Florida’s Firearm Owners Privacy Act (FOPA) and believes the law unduly limits doctors’ First Amendment right of free speech. But I think the court was right . . .

 Professor Volokh’s concerns about limiting speech must be taken seriously, because his acclaimed professional concern for the Second Amendment is perhaps equaled only by his regard for the First. Still, the appellate court has now considered the claims of Wollschlaeger et al. for the third time, and for the third time it has upheld the law. And with this third decision the court explains why FOPA withstands strict scrutiny.

Prof. Volokh writes that strict scrutiny in a court’s judgment is “a deliberately demanding standard in free speech clause case law, which is only very rarely satisfied”.  In the amicus brief of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO) Professors Caso and Eastman argue that the state has a compelling interest in protecting its citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. And if protecting the exercise of the Second Amendment would not meet the standard, what would?

At this point I shall run away from further arguing a legal case with Professor Volokh. I shall instead contend from my familiarity with the political events culminating in FOPA’s enactment.  These events may not be given much weight in the legal parsing. But to ignore them risks not understanding why FOPA has so far survived a full-on assault by organized medicine and its powerful allies in the legal profession.

It is no accident that these organizations—the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the [anti-gun] Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and others—are parties or amici challenging FOPA, and that they enjoy the services of the American Medical Association’s legal department.  All of these organizations actively promote strict gun control up to and including prohibition.

It was those organizations that originally got Florida doctors in trouble. The incident that ignited the public outrage resulting in passage of FOPA was an Ocala, Florida pediatrician following the AAP’s creepily named “anticipatory guidance” policy of asking a young mother about guns in her home. That policy is clear enough. It urges doctors not only to ask parents whether they have guns in their homes, but to warn them with the AAP’s message that “the safest home for a child or adolescent is one without firearms.”

The unavoidable conclusion is clear—your doctor thinks it’s best for you to give up your right to own a gun.

And in case anyone doubts where the AAP stands on gun rights, the policy throws in the organization’s longstanding pitches for restoring the failed Clinton-era ban on semiauto rifles, regulating guns as consumer products, and other items from the gun ban lobby’s perennial wish list.  The American Academy of Pediatrics once even partnered with Handgun Control, Inc., now known as the Brady Campaign.

Of all the major medical organizations the AAP has been the most aggressive in urging doctors to use their special position of trust to advance a political agenda of gun control. Professor Volokh briefly acknowledges the problematic nature of the public health community’s treatment of guns only to dismiss it as irrelevant to the case.  In a strict legal sense, it may indeed be irrelevant. But to ignore it is to miss why FOPA came into being.

Volokh writes:

Even if the doctor’s speech is mistaken (and indeed I find much “public health” literature about guns to be quite weak), “harassing,” or not sufficiently “relevant,” no amount of my doctor’s speech will cause my gun to disappear.

The American Academy of Pediatrics as a matter of formal policy tells doctors to use their influence with their patients to persuade them to give up one of their enumerated civil rights.Professor Volokh may not be intimidated by his doctor pressuring him to remove guns from his home.  Indeed, I suspect that as an expert on the Second Amendment’s protections, he would immediately and eloquently set the doctor straight.  But not all patients are like Eugene Volokh.  And a very sick patient may be completely intimidated by a doctor who holds the key to her health, or to her very survival.  Expecting a patient so harassed to simply walk out and try to find another doctor is easier ordered than done.

Most pediatricians believe that the AAP’s hostile view of guns, including telling their patients to get rid of their guns, is the standard of care.  And I know from the specialty breakdown in DRGO’s membership that pro-Second Amendment pediatricians are as scarce as hen’s teeth.

The inequality of the doctor-patient relationship has long been recognized. It is the basis for well-established state laws regulating physician conduct in the exam room, including speech. As my fellow DRGO writer and psychiatrist Robert Young, MD has written in a summary of the matter:

The doctor-patient relationship, which is supposed to be mutual and purely helping, has always held elements of dependency by patients and paternalism by physicians. It still does; even in 2015, most of my patients expect to be told what to do even though I don’t approach them in an authoritarian way. So when a physician has a personal or political point of view, it can get imposed even unintentionally. Few patients are willing to contradict their doctor’s viewpoint on anything if it is stated as necessary to their care.

I have also written a description of what goes wrong when doctors abuse their patients’ trust to push a political agenda or some other personal interest.  The concept of ethical boundary violations is well-established in the psychiatry literature and is the basis for widely accepted state laws regulating physician conduct.

In summary, the American Academy of Pediatrics as a matter of formal policy tells doctors to use their influence with their patients to persuade them to give up one of their enumerated civil rights.  It is easy to understand why Floridians were so disturbed by this most unprofessional conduct, why their legislature chose to proscribe it, and why the court agrees.

25 Responses to Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership Defend Florida’s Firearm Owners Privacy Act

  1. The only questions that need asking by doctors are about your symptoms.

    My standard response to the battery of non medical questions asked by the nurse is “irrelevant”

  2. So what? Just who are “doctors for responsible gun ownership”? How about I create “Humans for responsible gun ownership” that REQUIRES everybody to HAVE a gun and keep current on how to use it?

        • “It’s an organization I might just join – even though I’m not a doctor.”

          Fess up – You want to join so you can *play* doctor… 🙂

    • I think the logo is supposed to look like a semi auto (glock?) wrapped by a snake. Atleast that is what I see.

      • It’s a variation on the serpent and staff, and oddly appropriate since the antis like to (try to) mock us with accusations about the size of our ‘staff’…

  3. “Even if the doctor’s speech is mistaken (and indeed I find much “public health” literature about guns to be quite weak), “harassing,” or not sufficiently “relevant,” no amount of my doctor’s speech will cause my gun to disappear.”

    Tell you what, Mr. Volokh –

    If a conversation with your doctor leads to a discussion about your own personal depression issues, it most certainly can lead to your guns being taken from you without your consent and without due process of law…

  4. If anyone questions you, or presumes to lecture you on guns/safety, with or without any particular pressure being involved… ask him or her to explain their gun related expertise and experience/training that would qualify them to give that advice. None of them can/will go there.

    As a retired APRN, I know that a lot of nurses and other professionals are required to ask these questions as well. (Many of us refuse to ask, writing “N/A” in the slot…) If it is asked, the patient can shut it down fast with a plain old, “not relevant” is a great answer. No need to become hostile or lie. That’s probably not a good time to attempt educating the person asking the question.

    The problem, however, is well stated here. People who are dependent on a healthcare professional, and have been conditioned to believe that “doctor knows best,” are very vulnerable to this kind of pressure, subtle or not.

    Unfortunately, mere “laws” prohibiting the questions are not going to change that situation. But it’s better than nothing.

    • “… “laws” prohibiting… are not going to change that situation. But it’s better than nothing.”

      Do you know what that sounds like? Just saying.

  5. I have fired two doctors over stupid questions they would ask (one was about guns). The funniest thing ever, doctors have egos so huge, they can’t handle being fired.

    Try it for entertainment.

  6. “The unavoidable conclusion is clear—your doctor thinks it’s best for you to give up your right to own a gun.”

    Really. I don’t see that. I think it is rather clear that the entire movement is geared towards convincing you to give up your right to have a child. The doctors involved are volunteering to pick up all responsibility to raise your children for you, all expenses for tens of thousands, for life. I’m pretty sure that is what they are pushing for, a thousand children each. Otherwise, wouldn’t they at least consider STFU?

  7. The only time I discussed guns with any doctor was with my urologist. I figured that I wasn’t going to let any doctor stick a finger up my heinie unless he was pro-gun. It turns out that he was, and is.

    If any of my physicians disrespected my choice to be armed, I believe that I would suggest that they perform an anatomically impossible act, and thereafter find another patient to malpractice on.

  8. On my first visit to my current dentist I was fumbling through the usual magazine selections & was pleasantly surprised to find the latest issue of the NRA’s “American Rifleman”. He’s been my dentist for many years now, & we always talk about guns when I visit.

  9. wanna have some fun with a doctor? it is really worth the entertainment value….just politely remind any doctor that he/she is hired labor, just like a plumber, lawn service or auto mechanic.

    awww, come on, try it. you’ll be glad you did.

    i am.

    • Yes, we are hired help. Our job is to give the patient the best advice regarding their health we can. I am not god, nor would I pretend to be.

      The anti gun medical literature is rubbish. I pointed this out to my fellow residents in NYC back in 1992. My position has not changed.

      Not all doctors are anti gun. I have one question on my intake form “do you have any questions about gun safety?” Only one person in the last 10 years has checked the yes box; I recommended a NRA gun safety course. I suspect they were trying to entrap me, as many who responded to this thread. But nope, didn’t work.

      Paul Stoufflet MD, gun enthusiast

      • great position, doc. admired.

        the question was related more toward physician arrogance than anything to do with gun control. haven’t had many incidents of arrogant doctors, but the three that were a step ahead of themselves needed a reality check, so i made the reminder. the result was entertaining. each time, the blustering doc gave me a referral to another mechanic who turned out to be just great.

  10. Check out the privacy waiver supplied by NRA contract lobbyist for Illinois Donald Todd Vandermyde in Rep. Brandon Phelps “NRA backed” HB183 carry bill in 2013:

    “a waiver of the applicant’s privacy and confidentiality rights and privileges under ALL federal and state laws, including those limiting access to juvenile court, criminal justice, psychological, or psychiatric records or records relating to any institutionalization of the applicant..”

    Thanks Todd! What would we do if Chris Cox & Chuck Cunningham didn’t actually pay this disgusting rat to totally destroy the lives of every gun owner in IL? This waiver comes straight from a federal law enforcement type application. Why is it in IL’s concealed carry bill? HIPAA is totally shot here.

    Vandermyde cut a deal with the anti-gun Chiefs of Police to put Duty to Inform w/ criminal penalties in the carry bill so police criminals like Jon Burge and police impersonators like John Gacy can stop, harass, disarm, rape and kill armed citizens with legal cover, so maybe it’s not so surprising that this scum would sell out to the police unions with the privacy waiver as well.

    I can hear Richard Pearson and the Klansmen in southern IL: what’s the problem with the privacy waiver? I have nothing to hide, I’m one of the good guys! Losers, retarded hicks, and the traitor who sold out Otis McDonald. That’s “your” NRA!

  11. I have yet to visit a doctor in Arizona that asks those questions. I am not sure if it is law or career suicide in AZ for a doctor to attack gun rights. Anyhow, for me, the plan, if this happens, is to fire the doctor on the spot, and then create a website devoted to describing my visit to this doctors office. Too bad there is not a law mandating doctors post a sign that tell you whether they support the Bill of Rights or not.

    • There is a subtlety being lost here: doctors do not need to ask you anything, or even “advise”. They are free (directed?) to enter you into the prohibited person list simply because they learn you take certain medicines. That gives justification to concluding you are or will be a threat to self or others. Firing a doc, while not a bad idea, may not protect you. The snake in the weeds is you may see one doc for a problem resulting in receiving certain meds, but when seeing another for something else you are required to update your medicine list. The second doc now has grounds to put you on the list.

  12. I don’t care that the Doctors/Nurses/Technicians ask about gun ownership, I object strongly to them writing it down in my chart. Which is now supposed to be electronic. And the government has access to either directly or by simply asking (most electronic systems don’t require warrants as a matter of policy).

    You can ask, but I ain’t answering because I am not here today to get treated for a gunshot wound. What I own is none of your business, none of the insurance companies business, and none of the government’s business what I own and keep in my home.

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