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State Says Court Should Reject 'Docs V. Glocks' Challenge

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With a closely watched hearing little more than a month away, state attorneys have filed a final brief arguing that physicians have not shown they have legal standing to challenge Florida's controversial "docs vs. glocks" law.

The brief, filed last week, came as the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments June 21 in the case. The 2011 law, backed by groups such as the National Rifle Association, seeks to restrict doctors from asking questions and recording information about patients' gun ownership.

A group of plaintiffs, including individual doctors and medical groups, filed a federal lawsuit arguing the law violates First Amendment rights.

A federal district judge sided with them, but a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld the law in three separate rulings. The full appeals court then agreed to take up the case.

In the brief filed last week, state attorneys argued that the plaintiffs do not have standing, at least in part because they have not shown the Florida Board of Medicine would discipline them for the gun-related conversations they want to have with patients.

The state's brief also contended the law does not violate the First Amendment.

"The act's goals are not only substantiated; they are compelling,'' the state brief said. "The act shields patients who own firearms from purposely irrelevant record-keeping, questioning, discrimination, and harassment, and thereby furthers the state's compelling interest in protecting citizens' fundamental right to keep and bear arms for defense of self and state."

But in a brief filed last month, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians to discuss safety-related issues with patients.

"In (the law), the Florida Legislature does what no legislative body has done before or since; it prevents doctors from providing patients with truthful advice to keep their families healthy and safe --- speech that is recommended as standard protocol by national medical associations,'' the plaintiffs' brief said.

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