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'Docs v. Glocks' in 11th Circuit: Gun Rights or Free Speech?

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on June 27, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Florida Firearm Owners Privacy Act, odiously nicknamed 'Docs v. Glocks,' is being debated in federal court that has physicians on one side and gun rights activists on the other. It's been five years since the Florida law passed, and all eyes are on the Federal Court in Atlanta.

Most people see this as a doctors versus gun owners issue, but many lawyers see it as a First Amendment versus Second Amendment issue. What do you think is the correct way to interpret this debate?

A Refresher

"Docs v. Glocks" is the nickname for the gun law that restricts Florida physicians from asking patients and recording their answers as to their gun ownership. FindLaw has covered the issue thoroughly in the past.

For Second Amendment

No doubt, in the court right now, fierce debate is being raged over the proper limitations of the Second Amendment. Gun rights activists are famously effective at publishing their viewpoints. The opinion of some NRA members is that physicians have no business to ask patients what private property they own and any conversation between doctors and patients should be limited to topics of the patient's health only.

For First Amendment

But doctors can put up a courtroom fight, too, and chances are they're doing just that. The thrust of the physicians' argument is that FOPA places such tight restrictions on their relevant medical speech that it keeps them from "providing patients with truthful advice to keep their families healthy and safe -- speech that is recommended as standard protocol by national medical associations." Attorneys on the plaintiffs' side have couched the issue as one of content based speech restriction.

A Fundamental Disagreement

It seems that the debate could be resolved at the logical level if both sides could agree that some speech related to patient gun ownership is material and relevant to patient care. This question must be established by the courts if there is to be any progress or resolution in this matter. But that's purely a rational way of looking at the matter.

In fairness, it appears that at least some doctors feel just fine about FOPA. Whichever way this ends up, lawyers can be certain that emotions will run high and appeals will be forthcoming -- and those can have very little to do with logic.

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