A federal judge has blocked the state of Florida from enforcing a law pushed by firearms advocates that banned thousands of doctors from discussing gun ownership with their patients.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, who had already issued a preliminary injunction last September, made her decision permanent late Friday when she ruled in favor of groups of physicians who asserted that the law violated their free speech rights. She said the law was so “vague” that it violated the First Amendment rights of doctors, noting that the legislation’s privacy provisions “fail to provide any standards for practitioners to follow.”
The state Department of Health could appeal her summary judgment, which addressed legislation signed into law last year by Gov. Rick Scott.
In her ruling, Cooke clearly sided with the physicians, saying evidence showed that physicians began “self-censoring” because of the “chilling” effect of the legislation.
“What is curious about this law — and what makes it different from so many other laws involving practitioners’ speech — is that it aims to restrict a practitioner’s ability to provide truthful, non-misleading information to a patient, whether relevant or not at the time of the consult with the patient,” Cooke wrote, citing the benefit of such “preventive medicine.”
“The state asserts that it has an interest in protecting the exercise of the fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” Cooke wrote in another section about the Second Amendment issue. “I do not disagree that the government has such an interest in protecting its citizens’ fundamental rights. The Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, however, simply does not interfere with the right to keep and bear arms.”