Tuesday, December 18, 2012

You Asked My Opinion On Guns & Control Laws

So, some folks have wondered about my take on gun control in light of the shooting at Newtown, CT. Yes, I have one, and I fully expect my opinions to fall into the heaving maelstrom of other opinions, lost forever in the storm of loud voices. But here you go anyway.

Since you bring up gun control... Frankly, I was a bit shocked when I purchased my own guns. I have four: a shotgun, two Glock handguns and a .223 assault rifle. When I purchased them, I only had to provide the exact same credentials as I do when I buy a bottle of wine. With the shotgun purchase, the only reason I needed to provide ID was to verify my credit card. With the handguns and rifle, they said they’d run my ID through the FBI gun check database, which I assume they did, and I walked out of the store 15 minutes later with shiny new weaponry. The only registration I have are my receipts for the purchase. Maybe the serial numbers are now listed in the FBI’s records. I don’t know. I hope so. There’s no way for me to check. I certainly haven’t been asked to update the attached information such as my address or phone number since then, even though it’s changed.

That I could purchase weapons so easily is kind of scary. What’s even scarier is the other folks that can just as easily purchase them. If someone has a history of violent crime and is banned from having guns, it’s perfectly easy for them to get a friend to legally purchase a gun for them. But here’s the problem: they’ve already committed a crime that landed them in the “banned from guns” category. Here’s an even scarier tidbit: many acts of violence in the throes of mental instability go unreported and are treated as part of an “illness” rather than “violence.”

The FBI database used for gun checking is full of criminal names and conviction histories. Fine. No problem. What it doesn’t contain are the thousands of folks who have clearly demonstrated suicidal, homicidal or just plain violent behavior. As an emergency room nurse, every day I see people who are PEC’d (Physician’s Emergency Commitment). A PEC means that someone is mentally or emotionally “gravely disabled” (quoted from the PEC paperwork). And as other emergency personnel know, often the individuals need a revolving door. In other words, psychiatric patients unstable enough to require a PEC often return again and again after threatening their family or pulling a knife or gun on their parents or beating up their grandmother (no, I’m not kidding).

“Yeah, yeah, mental health sucks, blah, blah, blah; we’ve heard it before,” you say. I’m not talking about mental health care, per se. What I want folks to realize is that of all the hundreds of people cramped into emergency rooms right this minute under a PEC, none of that violent behavior (also read as “warning signs”) will go reported to the FBI or any other agency besides maybe the coroner’s office who can extend a PEC to a CEC (Coroner’s Emergency Commitment). Because the warning signs of mental instability are being treated as a disease rather than a prelude to violent behavior, such individuals are protected by HIPAA laws, that prevent the release of information about the individual’s actions that landed them under a PEC or CEC. Further, sometimes family members need treatment for their fractures, lacerations, contusions or other injuries that led up to the trip to the hospital in the first place. In other words, the unstable individuals have already committed violent acts! But press charges against their loved one? Treat it as a crime? Oh heavens, no! That’s their baby; he’s not a criminal, he’s just ill.

These gravely disabled people, with a concrete history of violence and antisocial behavior but no criminal convictions, can walk into the same gun shop as I did and purchase whatever weaponry they want just as easily as I did. They may be next door to you right now, or behind you in the checkout line, or visiting your children’s school as you read this.

Much hype is made over other countries' gun control laws and lack of violence by guns. “Japan, for example, has almost no gun violence,” you point out. Terrific! They have a well-known respect for discipline and maintaining order. We could use some of that here, to be sure. Since we’re focusing on only one thing in your argument, I’ll mention only one thing too: the Japanese culture, with its low gun violence and well-disciplined people, are also the folks who had absolutely no problem with murderous suicidal kamikaze pilots in World War II. Guns in Japan? Nearly nil. Great! The culture that produced kamikaze? Going strong. Think about that for a while.

If you check statistics, the US is way down the list of gun-related homicides per capita. Number twenty-eight on the list, in fact. Meaning what? That twenty-seven countries with stricter gun laws have more gun-related deaths than the US per population. Further, as has been pointed out many times, Sandy Hook Elementary is a “gun-free zone,” as were all the schools, malls and public places that have had mass shootings in recent years. Connecticut has, in fact, some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Yet twenty-seven people are dead. Didn't really help, did it?

So what to do? Enact laws banning all guns? Do you really think that will get them off the street and out of the hands of violent, criminal or mentally unsound people? “Well, at least there would be fewer guns to go around,” you reply. Let’s look at another example: we’ve banned heroin, crystal meth, crack, and LSD. Has that ban gotten them off the street?

If it was up to me, I’d include some better information in the FBI gun checking database. Include the folks who have a history of violent mental instability. You’ve been PEC’d or CEC’d? Into the “banned from guns” list you go! Yes, this may require revising HIPAA laws. HIPPA may protect an individual’s personal mental health history, but it’s your health that’s at stake when a mentally gravely disabled individual walks out of that gun shop with his shiny new weapon.

Further, I’m not sure that arming teachers is the way to go, but I’m guessing that more than a few grieving families are wishing right now that one or two Connecticut teachers were armed.

Restrict guns more? Absolutely. Ban guns altogether? Hell no! Encourage and provide proper gun training easily and cheaply? For sure!

As a parting thought, how many times have we read the headline about a ‘Killer Goes On Murderous Rampage In School/Mall/Office” or other gun-free zone. Compare the number of times you’ve heard that to the number of times you’ve heard “Killer Goes On Murderous Rampage At Local Gun Show.” Don’t think I’ve ever heard that.

Stay tuned for more commentary later.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Compass Rose" Trivia Quiz

(Questions as of Dec. 5, 2012)


1. Marco Polo traveled east from Europe to establish trade with what country?

2. Who is the host of the Food Network’s cooking show “East Meets West”?

3. The direction east on the longitude grid is calculated from longitude 0 degrees. What is the the line at Longitude 0 called?

4. All Muslims are expected to make a pilgrimage to what Middle Eastern city at least once in their lives?

5. What is the largest country in the Eastern hemisphere?

6. From what does a nor’easter get its name?

7. Israel was re-established in the Middle East in what year of the 20th century?

8. Easter falls on the first Sunday after what Jewish holiday?

9. In what country does the West end and the Middle East begin?

10. The film industry of India is collectively known as what?

1. China
2. Ming Tsai
3. The Prime Meridian
4. Mecca
5. Russia
6. The direction the wind comes from.
7. 1948
8. Passover
9. Turkey
10. Bollywood


1. According to “Wicked,” the prequel to “The Wizard of Oz,” what was the Wicked Witch of the West’s real name?

2. Peru is on the west coast of South America and has only one time zone. In what time zone are they?

3. In describing Eastern things, we use the word Oriental. What word is used to describe western things?

4. When traveling to the West Bank from the East bank across the CCC, in what direction are you actually moving?

5. What country has the westernmost capital of the Western Hemisphere?

6. The West Coast of California is well known for the “Hollywood” sign in Los Angeles. This sign did not always say “Hollywood.” What did the sign originally say?

7. Ahmed Aleywa, a native of the west African country of Mauritania, is currently famous for doing what?

8. In the movie “Far and Away” starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, where were they traveling west from?

9. New Orleans is on what longitude west?

10. If a hurricane is traveling due west towards New Orleans, from what direction will the wind come just before the eye arrives?

1. Elphaba
2. Eastern time
3. Occidental
4. East
5. Mexico
6. Hollywoodland
7. Booting a New Orleans ambulance
8. Ireland
9. 90 degrees
10. North


1. Who were the male and female lead roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest”?

2. Until 2009, the north magnetic pole was located within the territory of which country?

3. The Mason-Dixon line is on the border of four states. Name two of those states.

4. What team of the SEC is physically in the northernmost location?

5. The northernmost part of the Mississippi River is in what US state?

6. If you look due north from the wharf on the river at Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas, what town are you looking at?

7. Name all the US states with North in their name.

8. Over what body of water is the Northwest Passage?

9. The Aurora Borealis is also know by what more common name?

10. The 4th century archbishop of Turkey provides the legendary basis for what well known northern figure today?

1. Cary Grant & Eva Marie Saint
2. Canada
3. Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware & West Virginia
4. University of Missouri
5. Minnesota
6. New Orleans
7. North Dakota, North Carolina
8. Arctic Sea
9. The northern lights
10. Santa Claus


1. What swanky gated community is in the southernmost part of Orleans Parish?

2. How many college teams make up the Southeastern Conference?

3. Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner for 26 years in South Africa for advocating against what government policy?

4. What was the first US state to secede from the Union?

5. As of right now, is the south pole in continual darkness, continual daylight, or part day and part night?

6. What New Orleans road divides the North named streets from the South named streets?

7. When a pollywog becomes a shellback, what has he done?

8. Southern University plays against what team in the Bayou Classic?

9. What was the last US state to secede from the Union?

10. What James Bond movie was filmed in Hollywood South?

1. English Turn
2. 14
3. Apartheid
4. South Carolina
5. Continual daylight
6. Canal Street
7. Crossed the equator into the southern hemisphere.
8. Grambling
9. Tennessee
10. Live And Let Die

Tiebreaker: Name the four official BCS bowl games.
Sugar, Orange, Fiesta & Rose Bowl