In an early Woody Allen comedy, there's a scene where he's being taken before a firing squad and he tries to reason with his captors: "No, really, fellas, my doctor says I am not allowed to have bullets enter my body at any time..."
If it were up to the Florida Legislature, his doctor might be the next defendant hauled into court should he dare to ask patients about their access to guns. Fortunately for Floridians, and common sense, a federal judge sees things differently.
Eager to top their "Take Your Guns to Work" law of a few sessions ago – the law that prohibits employers from making company parking lots off-limits to guns locked in vehicles – state lawmakers this year passed a law popularly called "Docs and Glocks." A litmus test of loyalty to the National Rifle Association, it prohibited doctors from asking patients about guns in their homes.
The bill was amended to reduce some penalties – from five years and a $5 million fine, to a $10,000 fine and loss of medical license. It also provided an exception for doctors who believed "in good faith" that a patient needed advice about the safe handling of guns. Still, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke shot down the law as a violation of free speech.
The act was based on anecdotal evidence. Apparently, some doctors declined to accept new patients who refused to say whether they owned guns. That's a bit excessive – akin to refusing to treat smokers – but hardly something that needs legislative correction.
Besides, Florida had a doctor who drew a lot of attention last year for a sign on his office door telling patients to take their ailments elsewhere if they supported President Obama's national health care plan. The Legislature didn't mess with him.
Doctors routinely discuss, poke, prod and inspect areas of your anatomy that neither your junior prom date nor the TSA ever thought of exploring. They keep thick files on your life's history. They politely ask about smoking and drinking, sex habits and the use of illegal drugs.
They can recommend that, at your age, you might want to quit eating like a college kid. They can advise that an unfenced swimming pool is a tempting threat to a toddler. If a woman shows signs of domestic violence, they can recommend counseling services – or, if a karate enthusiast, show her some good defensive kicks and jabs.
The only thing your doctor couldn't do, under the stricken law, would have been to ask that woman if her abuser had access to an implement which, in an instant of rage or stupidity, could turn a bad situation into tragedy.
Aside from patient privacy, there's a theory festering in the fever swamps of talk radio that the ruling is part of a gun-control plot involving "Obamacare." The idea is that doctors will get a list of everybody who has guns, medical records will interface with computers in Washington, and the feds will know whom to grab when some future Stalinist regime decides to disarm us.
Does anybody really think the only thing stopping a president from becoming a modern-day King George III is the fear of millions of law-abiding gun owners? It's true, as the bumper sticker says, that when guns are outlawed, only outlaws – and the government – will have guns.
But the doctor law had nothing to do with outlaws. Doctors haven't been asking prospective patients if they are Mafia hit men or bank robbers. Besides, the government already has predator drones, land mines, the 82nd Airborne, satellite-guided nukes and probably all sorts of stuff we don't know about.
Bumper stickers aside, the government does not fear an armed citizenry. Never has.
So now, it's up to Gov. Rick Scott to decide whether to appeal the judge's ruling. He is sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws. In this case, defending the Constitution means letting this law go.
There must be a Latin term or a legal doctrine that means "common sense."
Bill Cotterell is a retired senior writer of the Tallahassee Democrat. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.