American Journal of Law & Medicine

Docs V. Glocks: Restricting Doctor's Professional Speech in the Name of Firearm Owner Privacy-Wollschlaeger V. Governor of Florida

Docs v. Glocks (1): Restricting Doctor's Professional Speech in the Name of Firearm Owner Privacy--Wollschlaeger v. Governor of Florida (2)--Dr. Bemd Wollschlaeger, other health care practitioners, and various Florida chapters of medical professional organizations ("Plaintiffs") are suing the Governor of Florida and state officials ("the State") for enacting the Firearm Owners' Privacy Act ("the Act"). (3) The Act protects firearm owners' privacy by prohibiting medical professionals from: asking about gun ownership; recording gun ownership information in medical records; harassing patients about gun ownership; and discriminating against patients who own guns. (4) Among the claims Plaintiffs filed are allegations that the Act violates the First Amendment by imposing an unconstitutional restriction on speech and preventing "open and free exchanges of information and advice with their patients about ways to reduce the safety risks posed by firearms." (5)

On July 24, 2010, the Ocala Star Banner reported that a local mother was forced to find a new pediatrician after she refused to tell her child's doctor if she or her husband owned a gun. (6) The child's doctor claims he routinely asked parents about guns in the home so he could provide advice on how to keep their children safe. (7) After much media attention (8), a bill was introduced in the Florida state legislature in January 2011, prohibiting medical personnel from asking patients about gun ownership, recording gun ownership information in medical records, and conditioning receipt of care on a patient's answers. (9) As the bill went through the House of Representatives' and Senate's Criminal Justice, Health and Human Services, and Judiciary Committees, the bill was refined to include specific monetary fines for violations and a comprehensive disciplinary structure. (10) On June 2, 2011, Governor Rick Scott signed the Firearm Owners' Privacy Act. (11)

Shortly thereafter on June 6, 2011, Plaintiffs filed suit in the District Court for the Southern District of Florida ("the District Court"). (12) Plaintiffs alleged that certain provisions of the Act "violate[d] the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution" and sought declaratory and injunctive relief. (13) The District Court granted a motion for preliminary injunction on September 14, 2011 after applying a strict scrutiny standard used for determining the constitutionality of content-based restrictions in commercial speech. …

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