FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 28 2015
CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, email@example.com, (786) 363-2737
MIAMI, FL – Today, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion reaffirming its July 2014 decision upholding the constitutionality of a Florida law banning doctors from discussing the safe storage of guns in their patients’ homes. The three-judge panel’s decision comes in the case of Wollschlaeger v. Florida – often referred to as the “docs v. glocks” case – in which doctors had challenged the 2011 law as a violation of free speech.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, along with leading medical and child welfare organizations, had 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.
A district court had previously found the law to be unconstitutional, but the same three-judge panel that issued today’s ruling had overturned the district court’s ruling in July 2014. Today’s order reaffirms that 2014 decision and also vacates an injunction that the district court had put on enforcement of the law, meaning the law now goes into effect.
Responding to today’s news, Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida, stated:
“This is a sad day for Florida doctors, their patients, and for free speech as this unconstitutional law now goes into effect. Doctors and medical personnel throughout Florida are – today – under new orders: talk to your patients about gun safety and risk losing your right to practice medicine in Florida.
“We cannot be surprised that the same two judges who determined that ‘patient-privacy’ trumps constitutionally protected free speech would reiterate that view. Their doing so in this way has allowed this unconstitutional law to go into effect and reset the clock on appeals. Because of today’s ruling, this pointless restriction on free speech will go into effect – for now.”
“The Legislature’s unconstitutional effort to stop doctors from talking to their patients about measures to keep kids safe when there are guns in the home is not simply a violation of doctor’s free speech, it is also dangerous policy. Needing to score political points with those who believe the government is ‘coming for our guns’ is not a good enough reason to ban conversations between doctors and their patients– especially when those conversations are important for public health and could save lives.
“With the ongoing crisis of gun violence plaguing our country, it should not be a crime for public health professionals to ask parents questions about gun storage and offer common-sense advice about firearm safety in the home. The First Amendment and the Second Amendment are not at odds; encouraging parents to safely store their guns so they stay out of the hands of children does not threaten the right to own a gun. Gagging these conversations not only advances no public policy goal, but could be destructive for our society.”
“This dangerous policy needs to be stopped here in Florida before, like a cancer, it spreads to other states. Just as they had asked the full court to review last summer’s ruling, we expect that the plaintiffs will likely appeal this order, and we are hopeful that freedom of speech – and common sense – will prevail.”
The ACLU of Florida’s amicus brief in the case, filed with 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, is available here:
The 11th district’s order is available here: https://aclufl.org/resources/wollschlaeger-v-florida-11th-circuit-ruling-on-rehearing/
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