First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pen vs. Sword a/k/a First Amendment vs. Second Amendment

How, you may think, can the First Amendment's free speech provision be in conflict with the Second Amendment's right to bear arms?  Look to the land of "stand your ground" plus televised trials.  Look to Florida.

In Wollschlaeger v. Florida, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is considering whether a Florida law preventing doctors from asking patients about gun ownership violates the First Amendment.  The district court enjoined the law, Florida Statute sec. 790.338, which provided that a health care practitioner "should refrain from making a written inquiry or asking questions concerning the ownership of a firearm or ammunition by the patient or by a family member of the patient" unless such information is "relevant" to medical care or safety.  

The State of Florida is defending its law in the "Docs vs. Glocks" case, claiming that a thoroughly undramatic series of anecdotes commanded the necessity of this obscure provision.  For example, doctors supposedly declined to treat at least two people who refused to say whether they owned guns.  Really?  Why would a doctor do that?  It seems hard to fathom.  Is it possible there is a little more back-story there?  

The law also states that doctors "should refrain from unnecessarily harassing a patient about firearm ownership during an examination."  Oh please.  Are we really supposed to believe there is an epidemic of gun-bashing doctors hell-bent on refusing to uphold their Hippocratic oath? 

Florida insists that its law allows doctors to counsel patients on gun safety.  The problem is the doctors are not supposed to ask if guns are even present in a patient's home, so that puts doctors in the position of either counseling everyone or no one about gun safety or making potentially inappropriate guesses about who needs a talking to about guns.

Another fundamental problem is that the law is vague, leaving doctors to guess whether the medical board -- which has the power to sanction doctors for violating this law -- will later agree that the questions were "relevant."

I understand that lots of people are fervently pro-gun rights, but it is not necessary to take away a doctor's First Amendment rights -- let alone interfere with a doctor's ability to counsel and advise patients -- in order to keep guns.  

Doctors should not be so micromanaged by the government concerning their examinations.  They should be able to ask questions about gun ownership in the confines of the doctor-patient relationship rather than be chilled from asking questions for fear of later disciplinary action.   

I side with the Docs.

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