Florida Doctors and Psychiatrists Cannot Ask about Gun Ownership

Rob Wipond
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A federal appeals court has affirmed that Florida can ban doctors and psychiatrists from asking their patients any questions about whether or not they own guns, reports Psychiatric News.

According to Psychiatric News, the American Psychiatric Association and American Medical Association had argued to the court that “asking about gun ownership and the presence of guns in the home is an important health-related screening tool, similar to asking about substances of abuse, smoking, and eating habits.”

Though no patient was obligated to answer their physicians’ questions, Psychiatric News reports that the court stated that, when a patient enters a physician’s examination room, “the patient is in a position of relative powerlessness… [and must] submit to the physician’s authority.” Therefore, the majority of the appeals court panel ruled that the Florida law banning such questions “simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or record keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care… Any burden the Act places on physician [freedom of] speech is thus entirely incidental.”

Court Upholds Ban on Doctors Discussing Gun Ownership (Psychiatric News,
August 29, 2014. DOI: 10.1176/appi.pn.2014.9a12)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Now if guns weren’t legal and readily available for purchase by any and everybody, this ridiculous situation would not have arisen. In other words, if people didn’t have guns, then they couldn’t shoot each other! And of course, it is not the people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill that are dangerous and need to be keep away from guns, it is everybody.
    So here’s my suggestion: Let’s pass a law that says that anybody who is taking any kind of psychotropic medication, should be prohibited from owning a firearm. This might not reduce the number of guns sold and held in the US, but it might just help reduce the number of folks on psychotropic medications.

  2. Hmmm I know if I was making a decision as to whether to violate a persons civil and human rights, information about whether they had firearms, and knew where I lived would have an influnce on my opinion.

    I don’t want to anger someone in a position to resist my oppression.

  3. I have very mixed emotions about this law as someone who despise the fact that people are allowed to have guns in this country. Yet, at the same time, with a doctor asking about gun ownership, it feels like another one of those intrusive questions that has nothing to do with the patient’s situation that brought him/her into the office.

  4. I am very much in favor of the second amendment. In fact, I think that it being second in the bill of rights is an accurate ranking of the set of rights Americans have. The rights listed in the first amendment are the most fundamental of all. The second amendment is the best safeguard we have against the US becoming tyrannical. In fact, Switzerland also understands gun ownership this way.

    Regardless of this, I think that the great news included in the ruling for our community is an explicit recognition by a Circuit Federal Court of the power imbalance that exists in the doctor/patient relationship. It takes the medical profession, and psychiatry in particular, a step closer to be legally considered as law enforcement. The more rulings like this in other areas of life, the better.

    • “The second amendment is the best safeguard we have against the US becoming tyrannical.”
      Except that it’s obsolete these days. No matter how many guns you’ll have the gov has tanks and nukes. That’s not a very productive way to fight against tyranny.

      • Ask the US army how things went in Afghanistan and how things are going in Iraq now.

        A population with almost one gun per person, the United States, would give a tyrannical army a run for its money. And obviously, said army would not nuke all the united states, after all, where would the tyrant and his followers live if they did?

        The second amendment is as good a safeguard against tyranny as it was 200 years ago. Of course there are byproducts to that, but at least we can reasonably assured that a Milosevic or Hitler would not happen around here.

        • The only way to win against a tyranny is to get millions of people on your side and be prepared to suffer and die. If you think that US gov would not bring tanks against his own people you may want to look at examples from other parts of the globe.

          • Tanks and guns are old technology. They will be picking people off in the street with drones.

            Anwar al Awlaki has set a precedent. Government hit lists will be expanded.

            Welcome to the Brave New World.