Thursday, December 10, 2009

Firearms and the Medical Profession

In the last 10 years, there has been a small segment of the medical professional population that is pushing for more interaction with patients about firearms. I read an editorial here where a Physician's Assisstant makes a push for talking with patients about firearms. What ever happened to going to the doctor and discussing aches, pains, blood and sometimes snot or stool?

As the author correctly points out, firearms safety is not something that is covered in their training process. Here is a hint: it wasn't covered in my training process as an engineer either. I don't think teacher's go through it, neither do professional athletes (except the one's involved in the shooting sports). And I am perfectly OK with that. I want doctors and nurses to learn about aches, pains, blood, snot and stool. That is what they will deal with. Whether my pain comes from getting kicked by a horse or shooting a Mosin-Nagant 50 times in one hour is irrelevant. Just give me something to dull my senses!

So what do guns have to do with health anyway that we would want our doctors to ask us about them? Well, the author gives a few examples:

"Consider the child who plays with a loaded handgun that he found unsecured in his home" Well, storage of firearms is probably better talked about with a gun dealer or someone who sells safes. You know, the ones who actually know how to secure a firearm. Another good source of information might be your local Sheriff or District Attorney's office to find out what the laws in your area are. Do we expect physician's assisstants to tell us that we shouldn't leave matches where kids can get them?

"the intruder who wrests a loaded gun from a panicked homeowner's grasp in the middle of the night" Oh good, the straw man of someone taking the gun away. Could someone please explain how a doctor's advice (who knows far less about guns than I do) is going to help me out in this situation. It the intruder takes my gun and uses it against me I may (the author didn't like statistics so I am trying to contrain myself from using any) be dead/hurt, if I don't have a firearm the intruder may hurt/kill me anyway since he probably scoped me out and feels he has the advantage. So how is following this physician assisstant's advice any better?

"a gun-owning college student who is despondent over both a breakup with a girlfriend and his plummeting grades" I am guessing she is implying that the student goes on to commit suicide as opposed to his friend down the street who is in the exact same situation and decides not to kill himself because he doesn't have a gun. Its not like he was smart enough to use a knife, rope, pills, alcohol, car, bridge, or any other implement. Wouldn't a doctor be more concerned with the depression/suicidal thoughts and refer him to a psychologist? Furthermore, if the kid is anything like I was, he isn't going to see a doctor, nurse, or physician's assistant for all 4, 5, or 6 years that he is in college.

"the single mom who answers her doorbell, only to find her estranged husband standing there with a rifle—despite a restraining order that is supposed to keep him away." Wait a minute, we need our doctors and physician assistants to tell us that some people who shouldn't have guns get a hold of guns. What advice/counsel would they give to this single mom beforehand that would change this situation? Don't have guns in the home? That isn't the problem, the estranged husband with the rifle on the doorstep is!

After complaining about gun control arguments devolving into a "battle of statistics," she proceeds to use survey results (statistics) to show that there is some hope for this profession afterall. Even though supposedly a majority of people said they wanted doctors to counsel on gun safety (a majority of people also want free food and housing - it doesn't make it a good or practical idea), the vast majority of doctors do not provide any counseling on firearms - probably a major factor in that result is that they have not been trained on gun safety themselves. Perhaps the reason is since Galen, nobody has shown how firearms (or any weapon for that matter) directly (as opposed to someone else misusing it or intentionally using it for harm) affects one's health. When used as the manufacturer recommends, firearms do not harm any innocent party. The author trys to compare guns to smoking or drinking, except that smoking and drinking when used the way the manufacturer intend, do affect one's health. Guns in relation to the medical field are better compared to automobiles or baseball bats.

Then the author has this doozy of a statement: "A gun in the wrong hands at the wrong time or handled improperly can kill instantly." I happen to agree with it (and if you don't you are probably an imbecile). Of course if you change gun with any number of words I would still agree with it: car, bat, knife, lighter, glass window, cement block, bathtub, battery, etc. Do we need our doctors and physician assistant's to be trained in every method that can do us harm? Can you imagine going to your doctor's office and having a display of flyers with the following titles: "Gun Safety in the Home", "How to Properly Jumpstart Your Automobile", "Remember Icicle Safety while Shoveling Snow", "Have You Child-Proofed Your Sports Equipment?". If they need training on all of these (and countless other subjects), when are they going to have time to learn about aches, pains, blood, snot, and stool?

Then she has three rules to counsel patients with:
"(1) Remove guns from your home, or keep them unloaded and locked up, with ammunition stored separately." Besides the removing guns part this is sensible. Should we also remove other things from the home that result in more accidental deaths such as bathtubs, matches, and stairs (I really want to use some statistics from a source the author approves of, the CDC, but I'll restrain myself). Why we need a doctor to tell us this is beyond me. Any training class on firearms will say the same thing. Most of the literature that comes with a new firearm will also say the same thing.

"(2) Treat guns as if they were loaded and ready to fire." Alright, if you are going to rip-off Colonel Cooper's rules, then use all of them. The 4 Rules aren't there to pick and choose from. Slipping up on one is forgiveable.

"(3) Do not allow children access to guns. " Sort of like not letting children have access to birth control, matches, or car keys. This rule is complete bunk. Children should have access to guns, under the watchful care of an experienced adult family member. How else are they going to learn how to properly handle them. I learned the rules of the road long before I could drive. Making things taboo only invites curiosity.

So, if on the 1 occasion every 5 years I go to the doctor, I am ever asked about my firearms, my response will be, its none of your business. If the issue is pressed further, I will engage in a conversation (which includes statistics) about how firearms "affect" my health. Finally, if the doctor/physician's assistant presses further, my visit will end, and I'll find another doctor.

And I would hope that everyone does the same thing. I don't waste my time trying to diagnose my doctor's heart condition. Why should he waste his time (and mine) talking about firearm safety (unless he wants me to teach him, in which case the doctor's office isn't the proper locale, a range is)? If he did have a question about explosives or projectiles, I'd be more than happy to help him with it.


  1. How true, how true. But with nationalized health care (or at least health insurance), wouldn't the government be crossing constitutional lines? I guess it doesn't matter because nationalize health care (or insurance) isn't exactly in the constitution.

  2. Cornered Cat has a good article on gun safety & children finding guns. Somee of it involves teaching them proper safety from the first and satisfying their natural curiosity. Some of it involves leaving the response gun unloaded. I switched to a 22 pound recoil spring on my Hi-Power; highly unlikely a small child could cycle that action.

    The website escapes me but an analysis last year found more homeowners took guns from criminals than the reverse.

    Despondent college kids find numerous ways of doing themselves in. In my dormitory, someone took a dive from a fourth floor window. Do we ban dormitories?

    I tell single or soon to be single women to get a gun. Protection orders aren't even good toilet paper. Anyone relying on them or the police to protect them is a fool.