Court hears Fla. appeal in 'Docs vs. Glocks' case - WFLA News Channel 8

Court hears Fla. appeal in 'Docs vs. Glocks' case

Posted: Updated:
MIAMI, FL -

A Florida law that restricts what doctors can ask patients about gun ownership should be reinstated because it doesn't limit free speech as a federal judge ruled, an attorney for the state argued Thursday.

The law, which has become popularly known as "Docs vs. Glocks," does not flatly ban physicians from having discussions about firearms with patients, Florida Solicitor General Allen Winsor told a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The wording in the law is 'should refrain,'" Winsor said. "It's not mandating anything. It's recommending. The use of the term is critical in this case."

Passed by the Legislature in 2011, the Firearm Owners Privacy Act prohibited doctors from asking patients about gun ownership or recording such information in medical records unless it was medically necessary - although that term was not defined. U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke declared the legislation unconstitutional last year as an impermissible restriction on free speech, and the state appealed.

In his rebuttal, the attorney representing physicians and gun-control advocates, Douglas Hayward-Driemeier, said the law was sufficiently strong to prompt doctors to censor themselves, because none would risk a potential loss of license or fines up to $10,000 for violating it.

He said most doctors ask about gun ownership as a common practice on questionnaires filled out by patients and that it's particularly important in homes where children are present or in cases of mental illness.

"We think it's relevant to ask every patient, every time," Hayward-Driemeier said. "Doctors will self-censor."

But one member of the panel, U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Tjoflat, had a different concern.

Tjoflat grilled Hayward-Driemeier about the possibility that allowing doctors to ask about gun ownership could devolve into a situation in which they are somehow used by the federal government to collect lists of gun owners.

"It goes to Uncle Sam in Washington. You understand my concern," the judge said. "You can put it in a computer and spit out everybody who owns a gun."

Hayward-Driemeier said he knew of no state or federal provision for doctors in Florida or elsewhere to provide gun owner lists to the government, noting that medical records are already protected by strict privacy laws. He argued that the law restricting doctors' ability to discuss guns only came into being because the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature was trying to make a political point.

"The state simply cannot stop speech it believes to be a political attack," Hayward-Driemeier said.

The panel did not issue an immediate ruling and seemed split on what to do. Judge Charles Wilson said the law appeared to him a "classic content-related restriction on speech" that impermissibly singles out doctors.

Judge L. Scott Coogler, an Alabama district judge sitting by invitation on the appeals panel, said one possible ruling could be to allow doctors to ask about guns but leave intact the law's restrictions on record-keeping and the requirement that the information be medically necessary.

"Do you have some other reason other than medical treatment that you want to ask patients about guns?" Coogler asked.

The law has been challenged by organizations representing 11,000 Florida health providers, including the Florida chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the American Civil Liberties Union and numerous other groups have joined them.

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Pinellas homeowner ends up the loser after local government mistake on property taxes

    Pinellas homeowner ends up the loser after local government mistake on property taxes

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 5:59 PM EDT2014-07-22 21:59:58 GMT
    This Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in PinellasThis Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in Pinellas
    Melanie and Jeffrey Cornwell should have been getting a tax break for years on part of the homestead property in Dunedin they call their "little piece of Heaven." But due to a mistake at the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office, they won't see any rebates for previous taxes, just a break on future tax bills.
    Melanie and Jeffrey Cornwell should have been getting a tax break for years on part of the homestead property in Dunedin they call their "little piece of Heaven." But due to a mistake at the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office, they won't see any rebates for previous taxes, just a break on future tax bills.
  • RECALL: Fruit at Trader Joe's & Costco

    RECALL: Fruit at Trader Joe's & Costco

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 5:45 PM EDT2014-07-22 21:45:14 GMT
    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.
    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.
  • How thieves clone your credit cards

    How thieves clone your credit cards

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 9:15 AM EDT2014-07-22 13:15:02 GMT
    File photoFile photo
    Patricia Stack didn't know her debit card number had been stolen until she tried to withdraw money from her bank account. "A couple weeks ago I tried to get money out to pay my power bill and there was nothing in it."
    Patricia Stack didn't know her debit card number had been stolen until she tried to withdraw money from her bank account. "A couple weeks ago I tried to get money out to pay my power bill and there was nothing in it."
  • NewsMore>>

  • Stunning twist in Tampa baby throwing trial

    Mother to take stand in Tampa baby throwing trial

    Thursday, July 24 2014 4:15 AM EDT2014-07-24 08:15:39 GMT
    Jasmine Bedwell, the woman who caused a mistrial in the Richard McTear case last year, testifies Wednesday.
    Jasmine Bedwell, the woman who caused a mistrial in the Richard McTear case last year, testifies Wednesday.
  • Lakeland residents not happy with answers about coyotes

    Lakeland residents not happy with answers about coyotes

    Thursday, July 24 2014 4:00 AM EDT2014-07-24 08:00:36 GMT
    About 75 people gathered at Lakeland City Hall Wednesday night and many of them weren’t happy with what they heard about coyotes that have been mutilating and killing cats in Lakeland’s Lake Hollingsworth neighborhood.
    About 75 people gathered at Lakeland City Hall Wednesday night and many of them weren’t happy with what they heard about coyotes that have been mutilating and killing cats in Lakeland’s Lake Hollingsworth neighborhood.
  • Car loses control injuring 3 at Dunedin shopping center

    Car loses control injuring 3 at Dunedin shopping center

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 10:37 PM EDT2014-07-24 02:37:40 GMT
    An out of control car injured three people at a Dunedin shopping center on Wednesday afternoon. The shopping center is located at the intersection of Curlew Road and Bayshore Boulevard.
    An out of control car injured three people at a Dunedin shopping center on Wednesday afternoon. The shopping center is located at the intersection of Curlew Road and Bayshore Boulevard.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • 'Extraordinary' little boy finishes triathlon with his disabled brother

    'Extraordinary' little boy finishes triathlon with his disabled brother

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 5:52 PM EDT2014-07-22 21:52:34 GMT
    (Photo: Courtesy Today.com via Aldrich Family)(Photo: Courtesy Today.com via Aldrich Family)
    Never underestimate the power of brotherly love. Eight-year-old Noah Aldrich didn’t want his 6-year-old sibling Lucas — who is confined to a wheelchair — to miss out on a youth triathlon this month.
    Never underestimate the power of brotherly love. Eight-year-old Noah Aldrich didn’t want his 6-year-old sibling Lucas — who is confined to a wheelchair — to miss out on a youth triathlon this month.
  • 'Faces of Meth' program launched by Sheriff's office

    'Faces of Meth' program launched by Sheriff's office

    Monday, July 21 2014 6:37 PM EDT2014-07-21 22:37:35 GMT
    'Faces of Meth' is a project of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
    'Faces of Meth' is a project of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Couple arrested for having sex on Cortez Beach in front of beachgoers

    Couple arrested for having sex on Cortez Beach in front of beachgoers

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 1:08 PM EDT2014-07-22 17:08:35 GMT
    Bradenton Beach police officers were dispatched to Cortez Beach after a few people called 911 and complained about a couple having sex publicly, right next to a little girl on the beach.
    Bradenton Beach police officers were dispatched to Cortez Beach after a few people called 911 and complained about a couple having sex publicly, right next to a little girl on the beach.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.