Federal Court Overturns Florida "Gun-Gag" Law
February 20, 2017   

A federal court has overturned a 2011 Florida law that prohibited physicians from asking their patients about the presence of guns in the home unless it was medically necessary. The law, called the Firearm Owners Privacy Act (FOPA), also prevents physicians from recording information about gun ownership in the medical chart and "unnecessarily harassing" or discriminating against gun owners.

The law was first challenged in a federal district court by state chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, and several Florida physicians, where it was deemed unconstitutional. However, Florida took the case to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta, where a three-judge panel upheld the law. The case was then reheard by a federal appeals court in Atlanta; 10 of the 11 judges agreed that, with the exception of the antidiscrimination provision, FOPA infringed on the First Amendment rights of physicians and was therefore unconstitutional.

In a press release, the American Medical Association (AMA) stated that "open communication between patients and physicians is essential to medical care and must be protected from legislative gag orders." They went on to say that "this case has always been about the First Amendment right to free speech, not the Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms. The court found no evidence that any doctor has infringed on patients' Second Amendment rights."

AMA Press Release