Only in America

It’s September, and you know what that means!  Shorter days, cooler temperatures, the leaves on the trees starting to turn from green to vibrant gold, purple and red.  Pumpkins and apples, the smell of woodsmoke in the air, and … oh yes, those big yellow buses once again rumbling down the street – back to school! school-bus.pngYou won’t see a back-to-school ad like this in France, Germany, or the UK.  You won’t even see an ad like this in Syria or Afghanistan.  Only in America would you would ever see an advertisement like this one.

That was a Public Service Announcement by the Sandy Hook Promise, an anti-violence nonprofit founded by the parents of victims of the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012.  Raw, jaw-dropping, disturbing?  Yeah, it was meant to be.  Only in America.  What a claim to fame, eh?

This morning, I watched the neighborhood kids walking down the street, backpacks slung over their shoulders, heading to the corner to await the big yellow bus.  I was thinking, as I watched, that I hope they all make it home safe and sound today.  Only in America.

We do everything possible to make sure our kids are safe from the day they are born.  We spend hundreds of dollars on the best car seat to protect them in case of a crash. We spend even more on monitoring systems so that we can listen for the slightest aberration in their breathing while they sleep.  We sterilize their bottles and insist on only the purest ingredients in their food.  We buy them helmets and other safety equipment to protect them in the event of a fall from a bicycle or skateboard.  But the one thing the citizens of this nation refuse to do to protect their children is to demand Congress pass laws to limit guns in the hands of unqualified civilians.

I’ve often wondered, if Mitch McConnell’s grandchild were the victim of a school shooter, would he then be willing to talk about gun legislation?

Only in the U.S. will you find these …backpacksYep … kid-themed bullet-proof backpacks.  Wow, huh?  According to a CBS News report …

“Demand for bulletproof and bullet-resistant backpacks and related products are soaring this back-to-school season amid growing fear about mass shooters.”

Of course, they are only useful if the child is shot in the back and if he happens to be wearing his backpack at the time he is shot.  What next?  Full body armour and bullet-proof helmets?  Only in America.

Nearly a quarter of a million children have been affected by gun violence in their schools since Columbine in 1999.  Think about that one for a minute.  And we’re not talking about New York City, Houston, or Los Angeles, folks!  We’re talking about Newtown, Connecticut, population 27,560.  We’re talking about Parkland, Florida, population 32,202.  Columbine, Colorado, population 24,280.  The madness isn’t just in the cities … it has come right to a neighborhood near you.  Or, maybe it has come to your neighborhood.

school-shootingsThe NRA and our own lawmakers have suggested that arming teachers is the solution … more guns.  But we all know it isn’t.  Guns don’t belong in schools.  Period.  Not in the hands of teachers, and for damn sure not in the hands of students.  Only in America would such a ludicrous proposal even be considered.

The only answer is serious gun regulation.  You know it and I know it.  Our legislators know it, but their children are safe, they go to posh private schools with the latest technology to protect their children, and thus their interests lie in lining their pockets with donations from the gun industry.  What does it matter if a few of our children die?  Only in America.

Think of your children, your grandchildren, the kid down the street who brought you a handful of wilting wildflowers last week “just because”.  I think the video by Sandy Hook Promise should be required watching for every single lawmaker in this country.  Let them think how they would feel if that little girl in the bathroom at the end were their own child.  Only in America.

A Later Post Part II – A Follow-Up to Glocks vs Docs

This is Part II – a continuation of an earlier post:

  • This one wasn’t really a question, but a statement, and one which really made me think and wonder what I would do: “As a father, and a good parent, I’d shoot any intruder dead before the cops came.” (From Opinionated Man)
    • Would I, if I owned a gun, “shoot any intruder … “? After some considerable thought, I concluded that no, I would not, for two reasons:
      • First, if I owned a gun, it would be unloaded and locked in a box in the bottom of my bedroom closet on the second floor of my house. Thus, the only way I would be able to shoot an intruder would be if he were willing to cooperate when I asked him to “stay right there for just a few minutes” while I go upstairs, find and unlock the box, load the gun, then return downstairs. Somehow I don’t think that would work.
      • Second, and this is purely speculative, as I do not believe any of us can know precisely what we would do in a traumatic situation until it arises, but I do not believe I would be capable of willfully and knowingly taking another life. That does not mean that I wouldn’t maim him … I wield a mean butcher knife which I keep quite sharp … I can envision me biting, kicking, punching, but not shooting.  I am basically a wordsmith, so I would probably, given half a chance, try to negotiate (step up on my soapbox and talk him to death!).  If he wanted money, I would give him the entire $40 I might have in my home.  Television, computers?  Sure … take them.  But no, I would not shoot somebody just to keep my electronics.  At least, I don’t think I would.


  • And again, more a statement, but with a question at the core: “Personally I am more concerned about the desensitization (defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it) of our youth and other impressionable people toward the value of human life. Perhaps the doctors should be asking if we own certain video games or view particular types of motion pictures or TV programs. I recently had a friend tell me that he plays Grand Theft Auto regularly with his preteen son and hasn’t seen any negative effect on the boy’s behavior. A future conversation might well be, “he was always such a good, quiet kid. I don’t know why he snapped like that, stole my gun and took out those two guys who had been bullying him.” (From Rixlibris)
    • The original post was in reference to young children, of an age to be under the care of a pediatrician, so I am thinking under age 14, and I was not considering teens at that point. But Rixlibris brings up a valid point.  Today it seems that kids are much more interested in playing video games and watching television than climbing trees and catching frogs (I am showing my age here, I suppose).  And yes, while there are a lot of fun, challenging and relatively non-violent games and programs, there are also many that glorify fighting and even killing. thus desensitizing our youth.  (It has been argued that so did Road Runner/Wiley Coyote cartoons). At any rate, I agree with rixlibris to the extent that un-or-under-supervised teens potentially leads to cases such as Columbine (April 20, 1999).  I do not think the doctor can realistically, in the time span of an office visit, ask about every potential hazard. And nobody can possibly foresee every possible hazard … if we could, none of us would own scissors, steak knives, or belts, and we would not store bleach or other chemicals in the home.  Almost anything can become a weapon.  But I do think that certain games and programs simply do not need to exist, for example the game mentioned by rixlibris, Grand Theft Auto.  While I have never seen this game being played, I have read a number of articles about it (I do have grandchildren, so I do my homework about these things) and am given to understand that it is extremely violent and teaches disrespect of law enforcement.  However, to ban such games or violent programs, would violate our 1st amendment, the right to free speech (or at least the current interpretations of it), thus we have come full circle and it is back in the parents’ court to monitor, supervise, advise, and ultimately guide their children. I realize this does not answer the question, but if there is an answer, it is beyond the scope of both my mind and this post.  All I am able to do is offer my thoughts, my opinion.


I understand that the 2nd amendment is here to stay.  I also understand that the current interpretation of the 2nd amendment is broader in scope than was initially intended, but that will not change either.  I accept this, though I do not accept the freedom of individuals to own guns entirely without regulation.  I hear that “guns in the hands of ‘law-abiding’ citizens make us safer”.  I do not agree with that, and as I have said before, every person is a law-abiding citizen until they break the law, so that is a moving target. It is a tired but true statement that we must pass both a written and a practical skills test in order to be licensed to drive a car, while we only have to be somewhat free of a criminal past in order to be licensed to shoot a weapon that has the potential to be more lethal to a larger number of people.  I have and will continue to advocate for stricter gun regulations.

I do not own a gun because I know myself.  I know that, while generally a calm person, I do have a temper and when it flares, look out.  A few weeks ago, a driver almost hit me in a crowded parking lot because she was too busy talking on her cell phone, cutting across aisles, to notice me.  If a loaded gun had been in reach, might I have used it?  I cannot say for certain, but I acknowledge the possibility.  Last summer, the lady across the street accidentally set off her car alarm and could not figure out how to turn it off for several minutes.  I did threaten to turn it off with a sledge hammer … if I had access to a loaded gun, might I have used it at that moment?  Again, who knows, but the fact that I have to answer “maybe” is enough to convince me that I do not need to own a gun.

I have, admittedly, never found myself in a situation that I could not handle with the tools available to me at the time (usually words – talk ‘em to death!).  If I ever do, perhaps I will view the whole gun-ownership issue differently.  I simply do not know.  I have many friends who own guns, I believe they are responsible gun owners, and I respect their rights just as they respect my right to ask them to leave their guns at home when they visit me.  If I felt I needed protection at home, I would go to a local shelter and get a dog!

A Later Post Part I – A Follow-Up to Glocks vs Docs

I recently wrote a post concerning 2nd amendment rights and whether pediatricians should be able to ask parents of young children whether there are guns in the home.  I won’t go into detail, but if you missed it, you can read it here.  In a comment, a couple of fellow bloggers asked questions that I needed some time to think about before responding, so I promised to address those questions in a later post.  Also, there were a few comments that, after I had time to mull it over, I wanted to respond more in depth. So this is that “later post”.   (Note:  by the time I finished writing this, it was well over 2,000 words.  Since I generally try to keep my posts between 800-1,200 words for readability, I am splitting this into two posts.)

While I may not have realized the full extent to which any discussion of gun rights or gun regulation are a highly controversial topic, I do realize it now, and as such I will try to choose my words more carefully than in my original Glocks vs Docs post.  That does not mean I have changed my stance, but I will try to express myself honestly, yet more carefully.

  • “I have to ask is there anything that “counters” that tragedy in your mind (a child being killed by a careless gun owner)? Such as the story a month ago about a teenager using her father’s handgun to kill an intruder? Is that not a balance to you or is that still tragic?” (From Opinionated Man )
    • My late-night, off-the-cuff remark to OM on this one was “Briefly, no, I don’t think one cancels out the other. The child is still dead, and now another person is also.” I think that even with a few days to think, to consider, I stand by my original answer.  Nothing will bring that child back to life, and the teenager who killed the intruder with her father’s gun?  That is yet another tragedy. Her life is forever changed.  Can you imagine the effect that would have on a mind and emotions that are not yet fully developed, not fully prepared for that weight on her shoulders?  It would not surprise me for that teenager to commit suicide within a matter of years, or at the very least need long-term psychiatric care. And … what if the intruder was not, in fact, an intruder?  I imagine that in this case it was, but “what if”?  What if it was a sibling, parent, or other family member arriving home unexpectedly?  What if it was an inebriated neighbor or otherwise confused person who mistakenly got the wrong house?  (I have actually had this happen more than once!).  No, there are just too many variables, and as I said in the beginning, how can one cancel the other out, when the child is still dead and now another human being is also?  Yes, I have been called a “bleeding hearts liberal” more times than I can count on all fingers and toes, but it is who I am, and I am okay with that.


  • “I would be willing to bet that drugs and alcohol play a bigger role in harming children and teens than accidental shootings. So perhaps it would be more relevant to ask if you have “drugs and/or alcohol” in the house? Would you be okay if your pediatrician asked you that question? Would you be okay if your pediatrician “had issues” or “vilified” you as a parent if you chose to indulge in either?” (From Just Plain Ol’ Vic)
    • This one is more troublesome, more difficult to answer than the others. Yes, I absolutely agree that drugs and alcohol play the biggest role in teen deaths, damage to teen’s emotional balance, destruction of families, etc.  And while I hope that drugs are not a common item in most households (perhaps I am naïve?), alcohol is certainly present in a large number of households, including my own.  To the question of whether I would “be okay” if a pediatrician asked if I had drugs or alcohol in my home, I am sure I would be a bit taken aback, yes.  And yes, I think I would be offended.  Perhaps that makes me a hypocrite, since I think it is okay for that same pediatrician to ask about guns in the home.  Which could lead to a fairly in-depth discussion that neither time nor space allow for here or today.
    • As to whether I would be okay if the afore-mentioned pediatrician “vilified” or “had issues” with me keeping a bottle of wine in the cabinet, I can definitely answer that no, I would not! But … that pediatrician who was asking about guns in the home was not, presumably, either vilifying or condemning, but simply asking and offering safety tips.  So, if said pediatrician then asks me how much wine I drink, I would remind him that I am not, in fact, his patient and his question is out of bounds.  However, if he reminded me to keep alcohol out of the reach of my toddler, I would not be offended.

(Part II to follow soon … )

Glocks vs. Docs …

Just when I thought the whole 2nd Amendment issue could not possibly get any crazier, I came across this in the Washington Post:

Do you own a gun? Why your kid’s doctor needs to know.


It turns out that several years ago, pediatricians began asking parents if there are guns in the home as a part of their routine exam.  My first thought?  How very sad that we have come to this point.  But just as I was about to close the article and move on, I read that in 2010, one Florida mother, Amber Ullman, rudely informed her child’s pediatrician that it was “none of [his] business”, then complained bitterly in the local newspaper that “whether I have a gun has nothing to do with the health of my child.”  Really???  Is she that bloomin’ stupid?  If a child is exposed to chicken pox, a parent is running to the doc, fearing for the life of her child, but if that same child is exposed to a lethal weapon every day of his life, it is not a threat to his health?  The pediatrician, Dr. Chris Okonkwo, by the way, told her she had 30 days to find a new pediatrician and that she wasn’t welcome at Children’s Health of Ocala anymore.  Good for him and shame on Ms. Ullman!


Well, as you might imagine, Ms. Ullman’s article attracted the attention of the ever-powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), who lobbied for a law prohibiting physicians from asking about guns in the home.  It is called the “Firearm Owners Privacy Act” and it was enacted nearly five years ago, in July 2011. It states, in part, that doctors or their facilities “may not record firearm ownership information in patient’s medical record; provides exception; provides that unless information is relevant to patient’s medical care or safety or safety of others, inquiries regarding firearm ownership or possession should not be made.”  I ask you, is not a gun a potential threat to the safety of the patient, as well as the safety of others?  The law is commonly known as the “Glocks vs Docs” law.  Have I mentioned before that the scope of the NRA is well beyond what is reasonable?


A federal judge, Judge Marcia Cooke, blocked the law as unconstitutional, saying it restricted physicians right to free speech and physicians question regarding guns in the home does not, in any way, interfere with the patients right to keep and bear arms.  Then in July of last year, an appeals court overturned the ruling, citing the patient’s right to own guns and to privacy.  The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit is now preparing to hear the case.  Sadly, legislators in at least 12 other states have expressed interest in similar bills.  Sigh.


One mother took her 7-year-old son for a routine check-up with his pediatrician.  Here is how that conversation went:


Doctor: Do you have guns in the home?

Parent: Of course not — we don’t believe in that!

Child (looking up from iPad with a grin): But Bobby’s dad has a really cool gun! Bobby showed it to me last week!


The leading cause of death in children between the ages of 1-14 is unintentional injury, a category that includes car accidents, suffocation, burns, drowning and gunshot wounds.  Pediatricians also ask whether a family has a swimming pool on their property, yet nobody has felt compelled to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing a lawsuit about that!  Pediatricians counsel parents about all of these issues. They may explain how to properly install car seats, caution against children playing with plastic bags, teach about safe water temperature, discuss safety around pools, and discuss proper and safe firearm storage.  In 2015, children accidentally shot themselves or someone else at least 278 times, averaging more than five times a week. Yet according to the NRA and apparently most gun owners, that is acceptable?


Let us hope that someone, somewhere along the line, preferably the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, has some “common” sense.  The bottom line is that a patient or parent can always refuse to answer the question, or simply disregard the advice of the physician.  But just in case a few parents might actually listen to the advice, just in case the life of a few children might be saved, let us not bind the hands of the very person who is actually trying to keep our children safe! Parents need to give the health and safety of their children a higher priority than their own right to privacy, or even their second amendment rights to own guns.  If they do not, then perhaps they do not deserve to be parents.