MIAMI — Governor Rick Scott said Monday that Florida will appeal a federal judge’s ruling striking down a Florida law that restricted doctors from talking with patients about gun ownership.
US District Judge Marcia Cooke ruled earlier this month in the case known as ‘‘Docs vs. Glocks.’’ Cooke agreed with physicians who contended the law violates free speech rights.
The state will take its case to the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta. Scott said he believes the law is constitutional and will continue to defend it.
Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature adopted the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act in 2011 after an Ocala couple complained that a doctor had asked them about guns. The couple said they refused to answer and the physician refused to see them again. Under the law, doctors could face disciplinary action if they talk to patients about guns, including warning them about the risks of having them in the home. Penalties that could be taken by the state Board of Medicine could include citations, fines, and “remedial education.”
Florida lawmakers said counseling people against gun ownership runs contrary to the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
In her ruling, Cooke said the state’s law was so vague that it provided no clear guidelines for physicians to follow. The law provides an exemption if the doctor’s inquiry is “relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety,” but it doesn’t specify what would qualify as relevant.
Several other state legislatures have considered similar laws, but Florida is the only one to have enacted such a measure. Advocates of gun rights contend that routine questions about gun ownership violate their privacy and make them vulnerable to discrimination by the government or insurance companies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has taken the position that guns are a public health issue and doctors have a duty to inquire about ownership. It says gunshots account for a third of all deaths from injury among teenagers and more than one in five deaths from injury among people ages 1 to 19.