Docs Versus Glocks: Gun Owners Privacy Rights Clash With Doctors' Right to Free Speech in Florida

TAMPA (2011-9-26) -

When you go into the doctor's office, should one of the questions be, "Do you own a handgun?"

A controversial new law seeks to restrict what doctors can say to their patients about firearms. The battle over that law is being fought in federal court.

Supporters say it's a privacy issue for gun owners. Opponents say it infringes on the free-speech rights of doctors.

Retired physician Timothy Wheeler, director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, says doctors do not have an absolute right to free speech.

“You cannot ask a patient out on a date. You cannot ask a patient to get involved in a business deal with you. And I content you cannot engage in political advocacy speech with your patients," Wheeler said.

Dr. Judy Schaechter takes issue with that idea. She’s Associate Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Miami med school.

“When I have a 17 year old who’s being bullied in school, and some state law wants to keep me from asking if there’s a gun in the home…this is not political speech. This is about saving lives," she said.

Earlier this month, a federal judge sided with doctors who want to overturn the law, but Governor Scott has vowed to mount an appeal.

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