Court rules doctors can ask: 'Is there a gun in the home?’

A federal appeals court has sided with physicians in the so-called Docs vs. Glocks case.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a Florida law prohibiting doctors from asking patients about guns in the home violated a physician’s free speech rights.

The ruling means physicians can counsel patients about firearm safety without fear of facing sanctions or losing their license, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said in an announcement.

"We are delighted that the constitution has been defended, particularly when it comes to the First Amendment. Pediatricians routinely counsel families about firearm safety just as they offer guidance on seat belt use, helmets and parental tobacco use to reduce the risk of injury to children where they live and play. These are all topics that families should feel very comfortable talking about with their pediatrician,” said Fernando Stein, M.D., the group’s president.

The AAP, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians all encourage their members to ask about household firearms as part of educating patients on the dangers firearms pose to children.

The court upheld a lower-court ruling against Florida’s so-called physician gag law. The ruling upheld only one portion of that law: the part that said doctors could not discriminate against patients because of their support of the Second Amendment right to be armed.

A study last year found many parents to be receptive to conversations with their child’s pediatrician about gun safety. The study urged doctors to avoid questioning parents directly about firearm ownership and instead discuss how to ensure safe gun storage as a way to decrease weapon-related injuries and deaths in children.