Florida State Rep. Jason Brodeur (R) recently introduced a bill which criminalizes any “verbal or written inquiry by a public or private physician, nurse, or other medical staff person regarding the ownership of a firearm by a patient or the family of a patient or the presence of a firearm in a private home or other domicile of a patient or the family of a patient,” and the penalty for violating this proposed law is steep:
Sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, the bill (HB 155) would make it a felony for a physician or staff member to ask patients or family members of patients if they own guns or store guns at home. If found guilty, the medical provider could be fined up to $5 million or face up to five years in jail.
Brodeur’s proposed government takeover of the doctor/patient relationship is just the latest example of right-wing lawmakers wrapping themselves in the Constitution before spitting on it. During his campaign for the state house, Brodeur touted his support for the meritless lawsuits claiming that the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution — describing them as a “crusade against federal government intervention into our health care.”
Yet Brodeur’s love of the Constitution ends the minute he wanted to push his own crackpot agenda. One of Brodeur’s first acts as a lawmaker was to sponsor a wildly unconstitutional proposal to nullify a federal law. Likewise, as conservative law professor Eugene Volokh explains, his proposal to censor doctors’ speech “violate[s] the First Amendment, as well as just being a lousy idea”:
[T}his restriction seems to me to be well outside the proper limits of the government’s power here. The restriction isn’t limited to speech that is misleading or dangerous to patients; perfectly accurate and reasonable advice about preventing gun injury is covered alongside exaggeration and hysteria. Nor is this a requirement that doctors say extra things that the government thinks patients ought to know (such speech compulsions are generally forbidden, but may be constitutional when imposed on professional-client speech); this limits the information that doctors can give patients, rather than adding to such information.
Thankfully for Brodeur, the penalties for sponsoring unconstitutional bills are much less severe than the ones he wants to impose on doctors who violate his preferred speech codes–otherwise Brodeur would be looking at up to ten years in prison and a $10 million fine.