WASHINGTON -- Attorneys with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the law firms Ropes & Gray and Astigarraga Davis won a court ruling today blocking a gag law that would restrict health-care providers from warning patients about the risks posed by firearms.
Judge Marcia G. Cooke issued the injunction blocking the law in a lawsuit filed on behalf of individual doctors as well as organizations representing 11,000 health care providers, including the Florida Pediatric Society/Florida Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics; American Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Chapter; and the American College of Physicians, Florida Chapter.
Dennis Henigan, Acting President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, stated, “We are pleased that the court has blocked the gun lobby’s outrageous and unconstitutional attempt to stop doctors from warning about the severe risks posed by guns in the home. With more than 4,000 children and teens shot in gun accidents every year, it is crucial that doctors be able to warn parents that guns in the home pose a serious risk of injury or death.”
The Florida law, H.B. 155, subjects health care providers to possible sanctions, including fines and loss of license, if they discuss or record information in a patient's chart about firearms safety that a medical board later determines was not "relevant" or was "unnecessarily harassing." The law, however, does not define these terms. The suit charges that the law is unconstitutionally vague and violates the First Amendment by having a severe chilling effect on confidential, life-saving discussions.
The hearing was held in July in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami. Dennis Kainen of the Florida law firm Weisberg and Kainen also represents the plaintiffs in this case.