Saturday, March 23, 2013

What Can Doctors Say About Guns in SC?

There is a lot to love in South Carolina.  Beautiful sandy beaches - anywhere you are in SC you can’t bee too far from the Atlantic.  The weather, although a little hot and humid in the summer for my taste, is pretty fine.  Global warming aside, in January there are many days that you can be outside in your shirtsleeves and shorts.  The mountains in the northwest corner are another lovely attraction.  Breathtaking fall foliage and cool little lakes, great state parks and forest, forest, forest.  You don’t have to go very far at all to find a leafy green place to hang out, to get away from the city. 

The people here are generally friendly too.  People you don’t even know wave to you, let you in when you are in a bind in traffic, thank you sincerely for whatever.  If you go into a post office, the person behind the counter is likely to ask about your health, your family, your well-being.  I admit that I am not the friendliest person, but when I am out with Heidi and we go into a familiar place such as the bank or a restaurant, the room comes alive.  It’s like being with Norm from Cheers… (Bar Crowd:  NORM!  Sam:  What's new, Normie?  Norm: Terrorists, Sam.  They've taken over my stomach.  They're demanding beer.)  Only it’s, “HEIDI!”

But one thing that that I will never get used to is the zany politics here.  Or the amount of emphasis on citizens being able to own as many of whatever kinds of guns they can get their hands on.  And when politics and guns bridge?  We may cross over from plain-old-ordinary-garden-variety-nuttiness to downright insanity. 

Well, no place is perfect I guess.

Take for example the bill that has 57 lawmakers signing on that would make it illegal for doctors to discuss gun safety with their patients.  Don’t believe it?  Check out last Sunday's State newspaper.  Front page.  Above the fold.  “What?” you ask.  “What about our FIRST AMMENDMENT right to free speech?  What about Big Government intrusion?”  Here are some excerpts from that story.

The bill has stunned some doctors, especially pediatricians, who say they do talk with patients about safety steps to be taken when there’s a gun in the household, to make sure a child isn’t accidentally shot. Besides, they say, they are guaranteed free speech under the First Amendment, just as gun owners have gun rights under the Second Amendment.
“They (gun rights supporters) are trying to get Big Government to come in and dictate what we can and cannot say, while at the same time, they are trying to tell Big Government to stay out of their right to own guns,” said Dr. Deborah Greenhouse, a Columbia pediatrician who is president of the S.C. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In the past 10 years, Greenhouse said, two children who were patients of her pediatric group’s practice were killed in home gun accidents that might have been prevented if more safety procedures had been in place. Since then, she said, she has made it a point to ask patients if guns are in the home and, if the answer is yes, to review a safety checklist.
“No one has ever taken offense, and numerous people have thanked me,” she said. “Many families aren’t aware of all the safety procedures I discuss. And you wouldn’t believe how many children know where their parents’ guns are.”
That’s exactly the kind of doctor-patient conversation that a bill by Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Anderson, would outlaw in South Carolina.
“We don’t want citizens to feel like they are going to be intruded upon whenever they go to a physician,” Putnam said in an interview last week.
Under Putnam’s bill, except in relevant emergency situations, doctors would not be able to ask patients if they have guns. Since many gun safety discussions originate with that question, the bill could stop doctors from initiating conversations about safety.
The reason for the bill, Putnam said, is that he’s trying to protect doctors from any future federal law that might force them to ask patients about gun ownership.
This is like a bad Twilight Zone story to me.  While we are all about individual rights and Constitutional rights; we are so uptight about the reach of Big Government, yet we might deny the free speech of doctors initiating conversations about gun safety with their patients and their young patients’ parents?  And you know who is feeling defensive by this idiocy?  Not Joshua Putnam who sponsored the bill, but Dr. Greenhouse who wants to protect the lives of her patients.  She is quoted in the story as saying that she knows she’ll be criticized by her stance.
One might not think there is a need for doctors to bring up gun safety with their patients, but in the last month in South Carolina there have been 3 children shot to death in gun accidents in their homes.  

• Tmorej Smith, 3, was shot and killed Feb. 1 in his Greenville apartment while he and his sister played with a loaded handgun.
• Easton Brueger, 8, was shot and killed by his father Dec. 30 in his Bennettsville home while his father was cleaning a rifle.
• Sincere Smith, 2, was shot and killed in his Horry County home after he grabbed a loaded handgun sitting on a table.
Sincere Smith

Richland County Sherriff, Leon Lott, called the bill “asinine”.  (The emphasis is mine.)  “Instead of preventing people from talking about gun safety, we should be encouraging more people to speak out.”
Do you think there is a need to discuss gun safety?  In the United States in 2011 there were 851 accidental shooting deaths. 
To Rep. Putnam I’d say, tell the parents of Tmorej Smith, Easton Brueger and Sincere Smith that the unfettered right to own and bear arms is more important than the right of pediatricians to have the free speech guaranteed in our Constitution.
I wonder what the rest of the country will think of this story.  I wonder how Stephen Colbert will play it.  What will the Tea Party think of it?  They are all for free speech, right?  How about Wayne LaPierre (“Guns don’t kill people. Video games, the media and Obama’s budget kill people.”)?  Doesn’t he agree with the first amendment?
I ask this question in all seriousness, how does Rep. Putnam sleep at night?

1 comment:

Suzanne Odell said...

It angers me to see this kind of saddens me....with legislation like this and legislators that support it it makes me feel defeated and defenseless as an advocate for children and at-risk populations. I think some of these male legislators have never brought a child of their own to a physical well-visit appointment. I am glad that my children's pediatrician cares about the overall physical, mental and spiritual health of my children. He cares. He asks how many hours of television they watch a week - HOW INTRUSIVE! He asks how much time is spent on the computer - ANTI-TECHNOLOGY! He asks where they go to school and what classes they enjoy and how their grades are - PERSONAL INFRINGEMENT ISSUES! He even goes so far as to ask what extra-curricular activities they are involved in and what their favorite books are!!!! If certain legislators found out about this - I don't want to know what they would do! Actually - probably nothing because the television, computer and book lobbyists aren't involved.