State of Florida Should Stop Defending the Gun Gag Law

Statement attributed to: Andrew W. Gurman. M.D., President, American Medical Association

“With 30,000 men, women and children dying each year from gun violence, our country is facing a public health crisis that demands an active role from America’s physicians.  But lawyers for the State of Florida are arguing at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals today that doctors should be prohibited from asking patients about guns in the home.

“In 2011 Florida lawmakers passed the Privacy of Firearm Owners Act, which inserts the state into the patient-physician relationship and threatens open communication in the exam room. The AMA continues to challenge Florida’s ‘gun gag law’ as an unconstitutional attack on the patient-physician relationship and the free speech necessary for the practice of medicine.

“Behind the closed doors of an exam room, physicians routinely ask patients personal questions to facilitate preventive care – questions about their sexual behavior, alcohol and drug use, domestic violence, and other sensitive issues. Our role in preventing gun violence includes asking patients: Do you have guns at home? Are they kept locked separately from ammunition? Are they accessible to anyone else, especially children and individuals with mental health issues?

“These three questions can prompt a reasonable discussion, supported by evidence-based medicine and professional guidelines, which can help patients safeguard themselves and their families. Patients who receive physician counseling on firearm safety are more likely to adopt one or more safe gun-storage practices.

“But this practical discussion will be illegal if Florida is able to enforce the notion that gun safety is an issue that should not concern doctors. Yet, physicians treat victims of gun violence everyday: their wounds, paralysis, colostomies, brain injuries, depression, chronic infections and post-traumatic stress. When treatment is no longer an option, we also perform the autopsies.

“For doctors to do all they can to prevent the public health crisis of gun violence from continuing in Florida, the state should drop its defense of a law that stifles relevant medical discussions that are proven to save lives.”

# # #

Media Contacts:
AMA Media & Editorial
(312) 464-4430

About the AMA
The American Medical Association is the premier national organization dedicated to empowering the nation’s physicians to continually provide safer, higher quality, and more efficient care to patients and communities. For more than 165 years the AMA has been unwavering in its commitment to using its unique position and knowledge to shape a healthier future for America. For more information, visit

About Us

About the American Medical Association (AMA) Since 1847 the American Medical Association has had one mission: to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. Today, the core strategy used to carry out this mission is our concerted effort to help doctors help patients. We do this by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional and public health issues. In 2011 our strategic plan focuses on five areas that encompass the central elements in health system reform: Access to care Quality of care Cost of health care Prevention and wellness Payment models Vist the AMA's 2011 strategic plan at: These topics represent the major areas of emphasis in which the AMA carries out its mission in the current environment. Our proposed actions are not only directed at solving reform issues at the policy level, but also at helping physicians adapt to—and adopt—changes in a productive way. To learn more about how the AMA is moving medicine forward, read our flyer at: