AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Bar association challenges doctor gun-gag law

Gun gag laws got the blessing of a review panel of the 11th Circuit Court of appeals last month, when by a 2-1 vote it upheld Florida's law banning physicians from asking patients about gun ownership.

Now, the American Bar Association is asking the full court for a rehearing, the ABA Journal reports.

In an amicus brief filed in Atlanta, the ABA says that such legislation "interferes with the preventive care duties that are a foundation of modern medicine, and violates the First Amendment rights of both health care practitioners and their patients."

Earlier, the American Medical Association had decried the panel's ruling. After Florida passed its law in 2011, a dozen other states introduced similar bills, according to an AMA report.

The panel's ruling said that the Florida act protects patient privacy by restricting irrelevant inquiry and record-keeping by doctors on the "sensitive issue of firearm ownership." Doctors may still speak with patients about firearms generally, the opinion said, and they may ask about ownership when the doctor determines, based on the circumstances of that patient's case, that the information is relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of others.

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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.