Saturday, January 8, 2011
It's disheartening to turn on CNN and see stories like this, 6 dead and 12 injured in a shooting in Tucson, AZ. Among the injured were US Rep Gabrielle Gifford, and among the dead Chief Judge John Roll. 

I should have learned by now (but haven't), that I should NOT read the comments at the bottom of news stories.  While many of them are very reasonable, there seems to be a tendency for intentionally inflammatory comments.  And they are usually successful in irritating me.  The comments on this story got me thinking about two things: gun control, and Sarah Palin.

We'll start with Sarah Palin, because I have much less to say about that.  Apparently (as I've learned in the last 15 minutes or so), Sarah Palin's political action committee listed the Democrats she was planning to "target", using gun sights to mark them on a map.  Do I like Sarah Palin?  Absolutely not.  Do I think that this shooting is her fault, she should be blamed for it, or held responsible for it?  Absolutely not.  I do, however, hope that she takes this event as a chance to evaluate what kind of power she and the tea party have as what some see as a "radical" or "extreme" right party.  And I hope in the future she chooses to be less flippant about how she describes her future political goals.  Because here is the USA, we have a gun problem.  As evidenced by the fact that lots of people shoot each other.  More, in fact than any other country (per capita).  Lets talk about that.

We'll start with an obvious statement:  without guns, people can't shoot each other. 

Now don't go calling the NRA on me.  I have no problem with people owning guns.  I grew up in a house with guns used for hunting.  The guns were upstairs, the ammunition was downstairs.  I have no desire to go stomping on anyone's 2nd amendment rights. 

Let's look at the 2nd amendment.  "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."  This was ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights.  First, I want to talk about having weapons, then I want to talk about the TYPE of weapons. 

Since we don't really have any militias right now, leave your guns at home.  Since you can't legally shoot anyone outside of your own home, if you aren't going hunting, you don't need to carry a gun.  It doesn't need to be in your car.  Or on your belt.  Or in your desk.  In fact, I don't think it should be legal.  Because you can't use it legally.  And the only reason to have a gun is to shoot something.  I think that it should be tremendously more difficult to obtain a gun.  And I think that violations of weapons possession laws should carry much harsher penalties (has anyone seen Miss Congeniality?  She and I are on the same page...).  I think the argument, "I should be able to protect myself" is ridiculous.  You shouldn't HAVE to protect yourself, that I agree with.  But fighting criminals by making dangerous things legal doesn't make any sense.  You will not be safer.  But more people will likely get shot.  Leave guns on the streets to criminals.  Yes, they will still have them.  But you can't improve society by expanding what is socially acceptable just because it exists. 

Now, the guns.  In 1791, when the 2nd amendment was ratified, gun would:
• made by a gunsmith
•...have rudimentary rifling.
• single-shot weapons.
• loaded through the muzzle.
• by means of a flintlock.

They never imagined in 1791 that was they ratified would be used to defend the legal possession of semiautomatic weapons.  They had no need to imagine it.  Muskets weren't a huge threat to civilized society.  There was no such thing as shooting 12 people before you could be tackled.  There was no such thing as shooting before thinking.  Every step had to be thought out and performed intentionally.  Things have changed in the last 220 years.  Which is good, because now we have microwaves, automatic transmission (cars for that matter), and iPads.  But it also means we have automatic weapons, hand guns with 8 round clips, Snooki, and Toddler's and Tiaras.  These things don't inherently make society worse, but they do mean we have to change the way we think about our "right to bear arms".  I'm not saying we throw the 2nd amendment to the wind.  If people couldn't have guns, I couldn't have made venison chili this week.  And venison chili is delicious.  But we do need to consider it within the context of our current society.  Do we want people to be free to obtain handguns just because they want one?  Do we want anyone to be able to do that?  Do we want semi-automatic weapons available at gun shows, sold by private collectors.  Do we want there to be a two days waiting period, or a two weeks waiting period, or a two month waiting period?  Do we want people to carry guns on the streets?  Maybe you do want all these things.  But I think it's important to think about what the implications are of this now, vs. 1791 when you had to load a musket before you could shoot that dude who pissed you off, or who you thought was robbing you.  

Late 1700's musket

I say, lets leave our guns at home.  Lets take them away from those who bring them onto our streets, and punish them appropriately. 

Getting shot hurts.  Getting shot kills.  But it's so impersonal we forget that.  We see it all the time, hear about it all the time.  But we don't see the aftermath,  So we forget it exists. 

But it does.  I guarantee the families of the 18 people shot today won't forget.


About Me

I am a Family Medicine intern at a community hospital in Indiana, navigating the new world of being a physician. I am privileged to work in a field I love, where every day is a new and unpredictable challenge.
I am not only a doctor, but also a cyclist, runner, DIYer in the making, lover of the outdoors, traveler, and human.
Human, MD is a glimpse into the world of a young doctor who is just trying to stay true to herself through the grueling whirlwind of residency.


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