Judge blocks law on doctors, gun talk

July 3, 2012 at 5:28 PM
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MIAMI, July 3 (UPI) -- Florida cannot enforce a law backed by firearms advocates that banned thousands of doctors from discussing gun ownership with patients, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, in making a temporary injunction permanent, sided with groups of physicians who said the state had violated their rights to free speech, The Miami Herald reported.

Cooke's ruling can be appealed by the state Department of Health,

The judge's 25-page ruling said evidence revealed physicians began "self-censoring" because of the "chilling" effect of the legislation, signed into law last year by Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican.

"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.

She pointed to the benefit of such "preventive medicine."

Florida's Republican-controlled state Legislature adopted the Firearm Owners' Privacy Act after an Ocala couple complained a doctor had asked them about guns and they refused to answer. The Herald said the doctor refused to see the couple after that.

Lawyers for the Washington-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence were involved in the case representing the doctors' side.

"Guns in the home are a proven deadly risk," Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center, said in a statement after Cooke's decision. "Guns kill eight children every day. The government cannot tell us or our doctors that we are prohibited from discussing the deadly risks posed by guns."

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