MIAMI (CN) – The NRA may not join the state in defending a controversial law that protects Florida firearms owners’ privacy, a federal judge ruled on Friday.
On June 2, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the “Physician Gag Law,” which prohibits doctors from asking patients questions about gun ownership and safety, unless the questions are “relevant” to the patients’ medical care or safety.
The law also subjects doctors and health care facilities to penalties for recording and disclosing information about patients’ gun ownership, “harassing” patients about guns and “discriminating” against them based on gun ownership. Violators could face revocation of the medical license and fines of $10,000 per offense.
Organizations representing thousands of Florida doctors sued Gov. Scott and other Florida officials, alleging the law prevents them from practicing preventative care and violates physicians’ and patients’ constitutional rights under the First and 14th Amendments.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) asked to intervene in the action, asserting that it had a separate interest in defending the Physician Gag Law from constitutional attack.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke barred NRA’s intervention, finding that the state could adequately represent NRA’s interests.
The NRA had argued that Gov. Scott, the Florida Surgeon General and other defendants may not have the same objectives as the NRA, since they are mostly concerned with public health care interests.
The court disagreed. “The NRA seeks to defend the constitutionality of the Firearms Owner’s Privacy Law. Governor Scott, in his official capacity, has the same objective. The NRA has not presented any evidence to suggest that Governor Scott may not adequately represent its interests,” Cooke wrote.
What’s more, the NRA failed to prove a divergence of interests between the state and the NRA, according to the July 8 ruling.
Cooke also ruled that the NRA’s claims were duplicative of the state’s action, since both parties sought to protect the same rights.
“The duplicative nature of the NRA’s claims or interests will unduly delay the adjudication of the rights of the parties to this lawsuit and unlikely shed any new light on the constitutional issues in this case,” the order states.
The court, however, allowed the NRA to offer its input on the lawsuit as a non-party.