The Governor earlier this week approved a $1.1 million payment to satisfy the attorney fees incurred by groups challenging a 2011 Florida law that forbid doctors from discussing with their patients the risks associated with having firearms in their homes, and how to reduce those risks. The bill was called the “Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act” (FOPA) and was backed, not surprisingly, by the National Rifle Association.
Take one moment and think about the sheer lunacy of FOPA. Imagine what a good family practitioner might ask a new parent – “do you have gates in front of steps?”; “do you have pesticides up on a shelf, out of reach of toddlers?”; “do you have covers on electrical outlets?” The purpose of the questions obviously, is to assess and advise about health risks. Does anyone out there reading this see a privacy violation there? So, how is it different when the doctor asks about firearms? Apparently, the Florida legislature and the Governor concluded it was.
Which is stupid. And a violation of the First Amendment. And that is not me talking, that is 10 judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, who found that FOPA violated the doctors’ First Amendment rights. The court also awarded attorney fees to the doctors who brought the suit. The lead firm — Ropes & Gray – has announced it will donate $100,000 of the award to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. That of course, is not stupid.