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One side will say it’s a restoration of freedom of speech for doctors concerned about a legitimate public health issue. The other will say it’s a step down the slippery slope toward unfair restrictions on the right to bear arms. Either way, a federal appeals court says physicians in Florida are free to ask patients if they own a gun whether the question is medically relevant at the time or not. The decision effectively overturns the Firearm Owners Privacy Act (FOPA), which maintains that asking patients about gun ownership constitutes an invasion of the patient’s privacy unless it is directly relevant to medical care. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have been vocal in opposing the law on the grounds that it unjustly infringes on the First Amendment rights of clinicians, especially regarding households where children live. Some Florida legislators and the National Rifle Association counter that the law is necessary to prevent doctors with an anti-gun bias from “harassing” or discriminating against people who own guns. Legal experts predict that the issue is far from settled, and that the decision could ultimately rest with the U.S. Supreme Court. (For more on issues concerning guns and the practice of urgent care medicine, see Guns and Urgent Care: How to Respond to Evolving Open-Carry and Concealed-Carry Laws in the June 2016 issue of JUCM.)

Gag Order on Physician Discussion of Guns Is Overturned—for Now
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