This was a pretty quiet week in the world of guns. The Republican debate came and went without any born-again pledges of absolute fealty to the 2nd Amendment, only 67 people were shot dead since the middle of the week, which is below the normal rate, and the headline article on the NRA-ILA website was just a kvetch about Hillary’ taking away all the guns. So I figured I’d have to dig pretty deep to come up with something to say in the column I write every Monday for the Huffington Post, until low and behold the looniest pro-gun group, a.k.a., my friends at Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, let fly with yet another attempt to challenge the assumption that physicians align what they say with at least some regard for reality, if not for facts.
Because the truth is that we really wouldn’t feel pleased about visiting the doctor if we felt that what he told us about our health was something made up out of thin air. So when we hop on the scale or let the nurse wrap our arm in a blood-pressure cuff, the whole point of these tests and others is to give our physicians an opportunity to evaluate our medical condition based on what he sees and what he knows.
But when it comes to their views on guns and gun violence, the physicians who contribute commentaries to the DRGO website are about as far removed from any reality as the veritable man in the moon. The latest flight into fancy is a column written by a family physician in Iowa, Sean Brodale, who is of the opinion that hospitals are not only becoming very dangerous places, but that the remedy is – you guessed it! – allowing the medical staff to be armed. In fact, this physician believes that since healthcare professionals are entrusted with caring for patients every day, why shouldn’t doctors be trusted to “defend our patients’ lives with a firearm if a violent situation requires it?”
In all of the explanations and justifications for CCW put forth by Gun Nation, this statement comparing medical caregiving with armed self-defense has to rank as maybe the single dumbest thing I have ever heard. In order to administer medical care to his patients, the author of this riveting commentary first graduated college with a specialty in pre-med, he then did four years of medical school, followed by at least three years of internship and residency and perhaps then a fellowship year or two. In other words, before he ever sat down to discuss anything with a patient, he had been training for upwards of a dozen years. And to maintain his medical license, he needs to spend a substantial amount of time in accredited, continuing education classes, as well as being re-tested on his medical boards. Know what the training requirements are for CCW in the Hawkeye State? Taking a couple of hours to complete the usual NRA course.
No article promoting the value of armed self-defense would be complete without some attempt to prove that the world is a very dangerous place. And in this instance, the author gets his evidence from a report on hospital security which shows a whopping 40% increase in hospital violent crime between 2012 and 2014. But if the DRGO author had bothered to read beyond Page 3, he would have discovered that this growth consisted entirely of increases in vandalism and cars being stolen out of hospital parking lots; every category of person-to-person violent crime – assault, disorderly conduct, burglary, theft – went down.
I just hope that when Dr. Brodale puts together a patient’s wellness program, he reads the relevant test documentation with a bit more care than he used in making the argument for letting hospital staff walk around with guns. He might also ask whether the NRA’s stance against any mandated CCW training meets the most minimal definition for reducing medical risk. Don’t worry, it doesn’t.