Dangerous state law in Florida attempted to punish pediatricians and other doctors for discussing gun safety practices like safe storage with patients
Court ruled that gun lobby–backed law violated First Amendment rights of healthcare professionals and denied patients lifesaving information
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Today, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its partner organization the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, applauded the decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that struck down Florida’s dangerous medical gag law, backed by the gun lobby, which attempted to levy penalties against physicians for discussing firearm safety with patients.
The presence of a gun in the home has been proven to greatly increase the risk of suicide and unintentional shootings, especially by children, and doctors regularly inquire whether their patients own guns in order to advise them on the importance of storing weapons safely and other basic responsibilities that come with gun ownership. Doctors routinely talk to patients about wearing helmets while riding bicycles, using seatbelts in cars, putting fences around swimming pools, and other common safety issues, but this brazenly unconstitutional law muzzled physicians on gun safety. As a result, the medical community strongly opposed the Florida legislature’s attempt to limit their free speech. The full Eleventh Circuit, overturning a faulty earlier decision, ruled that the Florida firearms gag law unfairly violated the First Amendment rights of doctors, putting patients at unnecessary risk.
The litigation experts at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence teamed with law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson to file two amicus briefs in this critical case, which were joined by the American Public Health Association, the American Association of Suicidology, and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.
“Doctors play a vital role in educating people on how to live safe and healthy lives, and their right to speak freely with their patients about gun safety is critical, especially when it comes to educating parents of young children about responsible and safe gun ownership,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “We’re pleased the Eleventh Circuit forcefully rebuked this unconstitutional, politically motivated law and saw through the gun lobby’s weak argument that gun owners need protection from pediatricians. As the Law Center’s amicus briefs demonstrated, education on the risks of firearms in the home—and the responsibility that comes with owning guns—is essential to preventing the shootings that unnecessarily claim thousands of lives each year.”