While serving in the state Legislature, Rick Kriseman was so repelled by a 2011 bill that prohibited pediatricians from asking any questions about gun use or ownership unless it was relevant to their patients’ care or safety that he filed a bill to repeal it.
Though that proposal went nowhere in the GOP-led Legislature, critics of the bill — dubbed as “docs versus Glocks” — have received the last word on the issue, after a federal judge struck down the law last month.
Governor Rick Scott has now approved a deal to pay $1.1 million in legal fees to groups that successfully challenged the NRA-backed Florida law, and Kriseman says that money should come from the lawmakers who supported the law, not Florida taxpayers.
“The NRA-owned politicians in Tallahassee, not Florida taxpayers, should be forced to pay these legal fees,” Kriseman told FloridaPolitics.com Tuesday.
Kriseman served in the state Legislature representing St. Petersburg and other parts of Southern Pinellas County from 2006-2012. He opted not to run for re-election in 2012, and instead focused on the 2013 St. Petersburg mayoral contest, where he defeated incumbent Bill Foster. He is now running in a contested re-election battle this summer.
The Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act, as the bill was officially called, was enormously controversial from the time it was introduced during the 2011 legislative session in Tallahassee. Supporters said it was a reaction to a handful of highly publicized cases, including an incident in which a health professional privately asked children if their mother owned guns and an Ocala pediatrician who, in 2010, dropped a patient after she called his query about her gun ownership an invasion of privacy.
Shortly after it was passed in the Legislature, doctors challenged it in court.
“Each year, Florida children are harmed when they or other children gain access to firearms that have not been stored properly,” said the 2011 suit. The case, which became known as “Doc vs Glocks,” wound its way from the state to the federal court system over the course of six years.
In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled that the matter was not one of the Second Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms, but the First. The court ruled in a 10 to 1 decision that the law infringed upon doctors’ freedom of speech.
At the time he filed his bill, Kriseman called his Republican colleagues who supported the bill in the legislature as being “hypocritical,” declaring such a law is antithetical to traditional conservative concerns about excessive government regulations and government involvement in health care.
Ropes & Gray, one of the law firms on the case that will receive legal fees, immediately announced it would donate $100,000 of its fee award to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, enabling the center to “expand its initiatives to protect children from the risks posed by guns,” the release said.
“Florida taxpayers just paid $1.1 million because of the gun industry’s unconstitutional, anti-truth agenda designed to increase gun sales at any cost — including children’s lives,” said Brady Center president Dan Gross in a statement.
“Physicians have a critical role to play in preventing these deaths by talking to patients about the true dangers of guns in the home, and we will not allow their voices to be silenced by the gun industry,” he added. “This award is a message to states to think twice before enacting or defending laws that put lives at risk just to boost the gun industry’s bottom line.”