Here’s a great scenario for your next game of “What if?” — sure to start a lively conversation.
Suppose you find yourself at a mental health visit. A psychiatrist asks “Do you own a gun?” Under the circumstances, this is a perfectly legitimate and prudent question.
Now, suppose you’re in for your routine physical and your physician asks the same question. How do you respond? The first answer that comes to mind, champion of the Second Amendment, might be “none of your business.”
Under a landmark Florida court ruling, that answer is now unacceptable.
The 2011 Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, commonly called the “Docs vs. Glocks” law, allows a doctor to ask patients about gun ownership only if he or she has reason to believe in “good faith” that the information is medically relevant, meaning the health and safety of the patient may be at risk if a gun is available.
The law was originally passed because a Florida couple, asked about gun ownership, declined to answer and was dismissed by their physician, according to The Miami Herald. It has been in an out of Florida courts since its inception, with numerous challenges and revisions.
On Thursday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law, ruling that it violated health professionals’ First Amendment right to free speech, according to Reuters.
“The promise of free speech is that even when one holds an unpopular point of view, the state cannot stifle it,” wrote Judge William Pryor. “The price Americans pay for this freedom is that the rule remains unchanged regardless of who is in the majority.”
We couldn’t agree more. One person’s constitutional rights do not outweigh another’s. But here’s the problem: Americans are rightly worried that refusal to answer could result in dismissal from the physician’s care, and ultimately cost them their health insurance.
Do we want insurance companies to have our gun ownership records in their files? Should your doctor be able to terminate your relationship if he doesn’t like the fact that you belong to a different political party? Have a different religion? Own a gun?
While striking down the 2011 law in general, the court did preserve language barring doctors from discriminating against patients solely because they own guns, and barring insurance companies from denying coverage or increasing premiums based on gun ownership, according to The Daily Caller.
One might speculate that a doctor who wants to dismiss you can find a dozen reasons to do so, and based on those reasons, insurance companies can drop you or increase premiums.
The point is that these questions, and their answers, are typically not relevant to health care, and gun owners should not be in the position of being treated like second-class citizens at the doctor’s office.
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