Editorials

Let docs address Glocks and save lives

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Video: Jordyn Howe speaks candidly to students about the day he accidentally killed a classmate

Jordyn Howe speaks to students in Miami-Dade court alongside the mother of the young girl he accidentally killed when brought a gun aboard a school bus in 2011.
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Jordyn Howe speaks to students in Miami-Dade court alongside the mother of the young girl he accidentally killed when brought a gun aboard a school bus in 2011.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Last week, several judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta raised a skeptical eyebrow and wisely looked askance at Florida’s ridiculous exercise in governmental overreach: Its “Docs vs. Glocks” law.

The law, passed in 2011, muzzles doctors on one issue, and one issue only: guns. Pediatricians, for example, can ask parents if the backyard pool has a fence around it or if they use a car seat for their toddler, all in the professional interest of a child’s health and well-being. It means a physician can suss out if an elderly widower is lonely and depressed — suicidal, perhaps.

But under no circumstances can a doctor ask if a gun is in the patient’s home, if the gun is locked away from a curious child or swaggering adolescent, and not just hidden amid the undies in the bedroom dresser. So much for a child’s health and well-being, especially when the deep-pocketed NRA has a figurative gun to state lawmakers’ heads. (And let’s give credit where its due: Last session, state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla had the backbone, little seen in the Legislature, to block open-carry and campus-carry legislation. The NRA was salivating for both.)

Docs vs. Glocks is clearly a breach of medical professionals’ First Amendment rights, a smart and simple determination of law reached in 2012 by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami. She ruled that it was unconstitutional.

But the state, undaunted and unconcerned, pressed on and appealed. It took a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit three tries, each time modifying its attempt to justify the tone-deaf law. But the full Court of Appeals threw out the panel’s final opinion that free-speech concerns were outweighed by the state’s interest in keeping doctors from using their “power disparity” to discourage patients from exercising their constitutional right to bear arms. Please.

Now that the full appeals court has heard oral arguments from both sides, we have our fingers crossed — that, for instance, the judges realize that:

▪ From December 2012 to December 2013, the year after Sandy Hook, at least 100 children were killed in unintentional shootings — almost two each week, 61 percent higher than federal data reflect. And even this larger number reflects just a fraction of the total number of children injured or killed with guns in the United States each year, regardless of the intent.

▪ About 65 percent of these unintended deaths took place in a home or vehicle belonging to the victim’s family, most often with guns that were legally owned but not secured. Another 19 percent took place in the home of a relative or friend of the victim.

▪ Of the child shooting deaths in which there was sufficient information available to make the determination, 70 percent could have been prevented if the firearm had been stored locked and unloaded.

These are the findings of Everytown for Gun Safety, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which, ironically, is prohibited by federal law from doing its own gun research.

We’re rooting for the judges to see this law for what it is — a wanton violation of the First Amendment. We fervently hope that they side with the parents who actually want their doctors to guide them through the best ways to protect their children; and that they realize the law is the result of political cowardice, a “solution” to a problem that doesn’t exist.

We have our fingers crossed that they affirm that guns are indeed an issue of public health, and that the most chilling “power disparity” is between the loaded gun found in the drawer and the 4-year-old who pulls the trigger.

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