Court Rules That Florida Doctors Can Talk to Patients About Guns

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On February 16, 2017, a federal appeals court ruled that a controversial Florida law that restricted doctors from asking patients about firearm ownership violates medical professionals' constitutional right to free speech. The opinion, striking down key provisions of the Florida law, was the latest ruling in a legal challenge to the so-called "Docs vs. Glocks" law. The law quickly became a heated ideological battle pitting gun rights groups against advocates of free speech and firearms control.

The 8-3 decision by the full U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier decision by a divided three-judge panel that upheld the Florida law. The law includes a series of restrictions on doctors and other health care providers, requiring them to refrain from asking about gun ownership by patients or family members unless the physicians believe in "good faith" that the information is "relevant" to medical care or safety. The statute also sought to prevent doctors from entering information about gun ownership in a household into medical records, and discriminating against patients or "harassing" them because of owning firearms.

Free Speech Between Doctors and Patients.

In the first of two majority opinions, U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan said the Florida government's interest in protecting its citizens' Second Amendment rights to keep firearms does not outweigh the First Amendment right of doctors to speak freely with patients.  Attorney Doug Hallward-Driemeier, who also worked on the suit, said the decision was "critical to the health and safety of Florida families."  "It makes clear that the First Amendment does not allow the government, on the basis of politics, to interfere with a doctor providing her best medical advice to her patient," he said

To read the opinion in full, click here.

Possible Long Term Implications.

If this decision is withstands possible scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court (and we hope it does) it could also be applied to other discussions a health professional may have with his/her patient.  This could includes such issues as birth control, termination of pregnancy, right to die, sex /gender change or reassignment, and other important social and health issues.  This is a real necessity if health professionals are to give accurate, unbiased advice to their patients and expect their patients to be truthful with them.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.  We represent medical students, interns, residents, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs.  We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters and other disputes with their employers.  We often act as the physician's personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at


Bolado, Carolina. “11th Circ. Strikes Down Fla. 'Gun Gag' Law.” Law360. (February 24, 2017). Web.

“Court rules that Florida doctors can talk to patients about guns.” The Miami Herald. (February 24, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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