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Federal Court to Hear Oral Argument on "Docs V. Glocks" Gag Law
WASHINGTON - July 17 - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit will be hearing arguments on Thursday July 18, 2013 in Miami on the unprecedented and highly controversial Florida “Docs v. Glocks” gag law that could strip doctors of their medical licenses if they discuss firearm safety with patients. Lawyers with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, along with the law firm of Ropes & Gray, brought suit against the law in June 2011 on behalf of several Florida doctors and medical groups, and last year won an injunction from U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, who ruled the law was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The Court will hear Florida’s appeal on Thursday, July 18th at the James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building at 99 N.E. 4th Street, Miami, Florida. Court convenes at 9 am.
“The gun lobby’s attempt to stop doctors from warning about the severe risks posed by guns in the home is outrageous and unconstitutional,” said Jonathan Lowy, co-counsel for the Plaintiffs and Director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project. “With more than 4,000 children shot in gun accidents every year, doctors must be able to give patients frank advice about the serious risks posed by guns in the home.”
The Florida law, H.B. 155, also known as the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, would subject health care providers to possible sanctions, including fines and loss of license, if they discuss or record information in a patient’s chart about firearms safety that a medical board later determined was not “relevant” or was “unnecessarily harassing.” The law, however, did not define these terms. The lawsuit charged that the law is unconstitutionally vague and violates the First Amendment by restricting and having a severe chilling effect on confidential, life-saving discussions.
One third of U.S. homes with children younger than eighteen have a firearm. More than 40 percent of gun-owning households with children store their guns unlocked and one quarter of those homes store them loaded. Children aged 5 to 14 years in the United States are 11 times more likely to be killed accidentally with a gun than similarly aged children in other developed countries. Because of these well-documented risks, pediatricians advise parents to keep guns away from children, secured with gun locks, and stored separately from ammunition.
Douglas Hallward-Driemeier of Ropes & Gray in Washington, D.C. is arguing the case for the Plaintiffs. The suit was filed by attorneys with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the law firms Ropes & Gray and Astigarraga Davis on behalf of individual doctors as well as organizations representing 11,000 health care providers, including the Florida Pediatric Society/Florida Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics; American Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Chapter; and the American College of Physicians, Florida Chapter.