Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Unconstitutional Gag Order in “Docs v. Glocks” Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 16, 2017
CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, media@aclufl.org, (786) 363-2737

MIAMI, FL - A federal appeals court today ruled that a Florida law which prevented doctors from discussing the safe storage of guns with patients is unconstitutional in the case of Wollschlaeger v. Governor of Florida—commonly referred to as the Florida “Docs v. Glocks” lawsuit. 

The full panel of 11 judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued two majority opinions holding that the portions of the law which threatened doctors with loss of license based on conversations they had with patients violates the First Amendment. There was only one dissent. The ruling overturns a previous 2-1 ruling from a three-judge panel that held that the law did not violate the First Amendment.

Celebrating today’s decision, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon stated:

“We are thrilled that the court has finally put to bed the nonsensical and dangerous idea that a doctor speaking with a patient about gun safety somehow threatens the right to own a gun. The notion that restricting doctors’ right of free speech to discuss any measure to ensure the health and safety of their patients protected anything was a fantasy cooked up by politicians – whatever the cost to the safety of patients, and especially children.”

“Doctors and medical professionals across the state of Florida can breathe easier knowing that having common-sense – and potentially life-saving – conversations with patients about the safe storage of weapons in the home, especially with children around, will no longer mean risking their licenses. The court’s thoughtful analysis should dissuade legislatures in other states from adopting this bad idea that originated in Florida.”

The 11th Circuit also held that a separate portion of the law regarding patient discrimination was not unconstitutional.

The ACLU of Florida had previously organized a coalition of medical and child welfare organizations, who together filed a friend-of-the court brief in the case, co-authored by attorneys Tom Julin and Gerald Greenberg, arguing that the law unconstitutionally restricts the free speech rights of medical personnel and hampers their ability to protect the health and safety of their patients. Along with the ACLU of Florida, that amicus was joined by: Alachua County Medical Society, Broward County Medical Association, Broward County Pediatric Society, Palm Beach County Medical Society, Florida Public Health Association, University of Miami School of Law Children and Youth Clinic, Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, Inc., and Early Childhood Initiative Foundation.

The full court’s opinion is available here: https://aclufl.org/resources/federal-appeals-court-ruling-in-wollschlaeger-v-governor-of-florida/

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