Six years ago the State of Florida decided that doctors could not talk to their patients about guns. The state of Florida has become the legislative sandbox for every attempt by Gun-nut Nation to rid the country of any and all protections against the violence caused by guns. Stand Your Ground, Concealed Carry – both of these harebrained schemes came out of the Gunshine State. But the law known as FOPA (Firearm Owners Protection Act) was the craziest of them all.
What made the law so crazy wasn’t the fact that it criminalized doctors who talked to their patients about guns; it was that in a state of 18 million people, the law was based on six unsubstantiated anecdotes which, as the 11th Circuit Court noted, didn’t even address the same concerns. Which was one, but not the only reason why the 11th Circuit Court ruled 10 – 1 that the law was unconstitutional and couldn’t stand.
Throwing doctors out of the discussion about gun violence has been a major and ongoing NRA project since the medical profession first started warning about the risks of guns. Which is exactly how the Hippocratic Oath defines the role of physicians, namely, to reduce risk. But I can’t blame the gun industry and its noisemakers like the NRA from taking an anti-doctor stand; after all, if you manufactured a consumer product which was considered by physicians to be too risky to own, you’d be up in arms (no pun intended) against those physicians too.
But what the Court said in this regard effectively stood the NRA’s argument on its head, because 10 out of 11 justices found that “there was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights.” And this is what the argument is all about, namely, whether any attempt to regulate gun violence or even talk about gun violence is somehow always construed as an ‘attack’ on 2nd Amendment ‘rights.’
Right now a bill is being debated in the State of Washington Legislature which would make a failure to secure guns in the home a reckless endangerment felony if an individual who, under law, cannot have possession of a firearm gets his hands on the gun and discharges it or uses it in a criminal or threatening way. The NRA is opposed to this bill, calling it “an intrusive government legislation [which] invades people’s homes and forces them to render their firearms useless in a self-defense situation by locking them up.”
The bill does no such thing. Nor does a doctor talking to a patient about guns threaten the patient’s ownership of that gun. But if we now have a President who stands up in front of the entire nation and after he’s corrected about the size of his electoral victory repeats the same falsehood again, should we be surprised when the representatives of Gun-nut Nation continue to promote their own false claims again and again?
No doubt that when the dust settles and the smoke clears, Gun-nut Nation will come up with their own, self-fulfilling narrative about the ‘Docs versus Glocks’ case. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the first thing they say is that the 11th Circuit is tainted because 9 of the 10 judges who supported the majority decision were appointed by gun-grabber numero uno, Barack Hussein. But that’s nothing more than another riff on Trump-o’s attack on the ‘politicized’ judiciary, which seems to be the latest in a dwindling list of options available to the Chief Executive before he’s forced to resign.
The decision by the 11th Circuit not only puts an end to a six-year battle that erupted when the FOPA law was first announced. It also puts a big dent in the thirty-year campaign waged by the NRA and others to keep evidence-based information about gun risk and gun violence on the margins of the public domain. This just isn’t a victory for doctors and patients, it’s a victory for the value of reasoned, public debate.