The Eleventh Circuit court of appeals, in an unusual decision, has decided to hear the case of Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger, et al. v. Governor State of Florida, et al. in the matter of the Privacy of Firearms Owners Act. The Act provided that doctors and other health care professionals could not use their professional position of power in order to collect private information from firearms owners, and potentially make that information available to third parties and numerous government agencies . . .
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled the arguments for June 21 in Atlanta, according to a document posted on the court’s website.
A three-judge panel has issued three rulings that upheld the law, with the most-recent ruling in December.
But the full appeals court then decided to take up the issue in what is known as an en banc proceeding.
The decision to invoke the en banc hearing of the case was published on February 26th. It’s not clear when the decision was made. It’s normally done by a vote of all the judges on the court.
The decision in this case is extremely important. The ruling of the three judge panel destroyed the most significant current tactic in the civilian disarmament arsenal: the medicalization of gun control. The process of changing the use of weapons from personal choice, whether responsible or criminal, into a theory where the choice of the individual is immaterial, and guns are treated as disease vectors, as viruses and bacteria are.
The earlier three judge panel found that guns were not disease vectors, a pretty easy decision, one would think. From the decision(pdf):
With this great authority comes great responsibility. To protect patients, society has long imposed upon physicians certain duties and restrictions that define the boundaries of good medical care. In keeping with this tradition, the State passed the Act. The Act codifies the commonsense conclusion that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care—especially not when that inquiry or record- keeping constitutes such a substantial intrusion upon patient privacy—and that good medical care never requires the discrimination or harassment of firearm owners.
The three judge panel also found that a physician who categorically tells a patient that it’s unsafe to own a gun, without a specific medical reason, is chilling the exercise of the patient’s Second Amendment rights.
It is of course an interference with Second Amendment rights for a trusted physician to tell his patient—for no medically relevant reason whatsoever—that it is unsafe to own a gun. Though such actions, on their own, may not stop the patient from owning a gun, complete prohibition is hardly required to infringe on constitutionally guaranteed rights. Such speech chills the patient’s exercise of his rights and that is sufficient.
Whether the whole Eleventh Circuit will uphold the decision of the three judge panel is uncertain. It will be months before we know the answer to that question.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.