Gun control part 3

Crime prevention light in Japan

Crime prevention light in Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have never suffered a gun related crime as a victim nor have I ever prevented a crime by use of a gun to protect myself or someone else. I have been told by others how a gun saved them from death or a fate worse than death as rape was described in an earlier day. The number of gun related crimes can be ascertained approximately from crime statistics, but the number of crimes prevented by guns can only be estimated. The question in my mind is what is the cost-benefit ratio? How many crimes prevented to the number of gun related crimes? Then each of us must make a moral judgment. Are the crimes prevented of greater worth to society than the cost of gun related crimes and deaths?

Every crime prevented is worth celebrating, particularly to the potential victim and his/her family and friends. However, as much as a crime prevention is worth celebrating for an individual, is the cost worthwhile for all of us together as a society? Are we to arm everyone to prevent crime? A gun kept safely under lock and key may not be accessible in time to prevent a crime. The best marksman/woman in the world may be slower on the draw than the intruder/criminal. As much as guns may prevent some crimes for some individuals, I believe that the mayhem that results from too many guns in the wrong hands is too high a price to pay.

I would suggest replacing guns in our society with non-lethal means of defense such as mace, pepper spray and tasers. However, I think that we must look beyond that to what I believe is the ultimate solution, loving our neighbors. If each of us truly loved our neighbors as ourselves and let our neighbors know of our love with positive acts that were of benefit to the neighbor/potential criminal, I believe that potential criminals would be hesitant to hurt someone who loved them. You may think that I am crazy and/or naive, but I believe that the fellowship of man is the ultimate solution to the gun problem that we have here in the US. We cannot continue to witness gun-related mass slayings and label each and every one of them the work of the mentally disturbed when we have no way of knowing who is  prone to gun violence before the tragedies occur.

Please see Gun control | Gun control part 2 | Lethal force | Gun deaths in America

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Hospital ER

X-rays on

X-rays on (Photo credit: VeHagen)

This is what I learned working for eleven years as an x-ray tech in a hospital ER. Our work station was about ten feet from the trauma rooms. As I stood there and waited for doctors’ orders, I watched the paramedics deliver injured patients and I thought about what I was seeing. During this time, my son grew from age ten to age twenty-one. Shortly after his birth, I began thinking about how to protect him from life’s slings and arrows. I slowly came to the conclusion that I could not protect him from life’s hazards without protecting others too. You must protect everyone or no one.

There in the ER, I was exposed to many of the hazards that life presents and I had the opportunity to ponder how we as a society can and should respond. I saw patients who had fallen from drunkenness, victims of motor vehicle accidents, bicyclists who had fallen or collided with a motor vehicle, fight victims, gang members shot or stabbed on most weekends, victims of heart attack or stroke, child victims of abuse, victims of assault, diabetics and others who did not take good care of their health, drug overdoses, drownings, and illnesses of all conceivable types.

I  will examine some of these cases in the lines that follow and express my thoughts on possible solutions. I do not have a possible solution for all the problems listed above nor do I  think that I necessarily have final and best solutions. I hope that what I saw and will describe will give you cause for thought and I encourage you to think about possible solutions.

I  have x-rayed hundreds of bicyclists of all ages. When the accident was between a bicycle and a motor vehicle, never in twenty years did I ever have to x-ray the driver of the motor vehicle. In this sort of a collision, the bicyclist always loses. In most cases, the broken bones were not life threatening. However, injuries can be severe and require months of recovery post surgery.

How to make bicyclists more safety conscious? I would require that at age sixteen or eighteen that bicyclists must obtain a safety certificate similar to a driver’s license by passing a safety course. I would also require that every bicyclist maintain a minimum level of health insurance. The safety certificate program would emphasize the consequences of bicycle injuries and would require renewal every three or four years. Bicyclists riding without a safety certificate would receive tickets and pay fines.

In California, it is common for drunken drivers to enter freeways via an off ramp becoming wrong way drivers. This often leads to injury and death to innocents travelling in the correct lanes. I would stop this from happening by installing spikes that would impede cars moving onto freeways in the wrong direction. These devices would resemble those in parking lots and garages that prevent cars from entering using exit only lanes.

Almost every weekend, I had to x-ray someone with a stabbing or gunshot wound. I do not know which was the more serious injury, but a stab wound to the chest that might involve the lungs was treated more seriously in most cases. How to reduce those cases was a question that eluded an answer for years. I could not ask my son to wear a bullet proof vest at all times and it would not protect him from a club or a knife. Reducing access to knives, guns and clubs would not be a workable solution either. How to protect him from the random violence that exists in our society. Even the best of us could be a victim if we are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I do not have inside information on the working of the minds of gang members. I have x-rayed many but not interviewed them. In Southern California, most gang members are members of minorities. I think that the attraction of gangs and the resultant violence can be reduced if each individual member of the minority community is made to feel welcome in our society. That means finding a place for them that includes a good job that pays enough to support a family in some comfort. If only dead-end jobs are available, some will drop out and turn to crime as a possible solution. There will be no quick and easy solution. Only time and much effort will start to turn the tide of inner city crime and gang violence.

Let us leave the ER for a moment and stroll down the hall and up one floor to the NICU, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where premature infants are cared for. I have x-rayed thousands of babies ranging from the nearly full term to infants with bodies smaller than my fist. Taking an x-ray is a brief encounter. During some of my x-ray years, I also worked part-time as a unit clerk in the same hospital. I floated from ward to ward, sometimes working on a busy surgical floor, sometimes in the adult ICU and sometimes in the NICU. The work in the NICU was so much easier than in other wards that it was almost an eight hour vacation. I answered the phone and opened the locked entrance to allow parents to visit their child. During the rest of the time, I could observe the nurses working and the patients.

Our NICU could accommodate 25 infants when it was full and that was a frequent occurrence. Almost all of the babies had Spanish surnames. How many had undocumented parents I had no way of knowing, but I suspected that many did. No matter, being born in the US, all were US citizens with the same rights as you and I. I strongly doubt that many or any of the parents could afford the care their child received or that they had sufficient health insurance either. Who paid? The hospital paid, employees paid with lower salaries, government paid, society paid, you and I paid directly and indirectly.

I  had many hours to ponder the situation. The solution I propose is free pre-natal health care for any expectant  mother who requests it. If the expectant mother is malnourished, this would also include free food. Some will protest. Why feed illegal immigrants or the poor? Because their children will be citizens. Our society needs healthy children who grow up to be healthy adults and can contribute in a positive manner. It is very costly to care for an infant in an NICU. Each nurse has only one or two patients. We should not punish children because of their parents’ poverty.

Let us now return to the ER for what I found most difficult to deal with as a parent. Whenever a child or young adult arrived following a trauma, I felt anxiety that it might be my child. When I learned that it was not my son, I felt relief but I could still understand what the parents must have been feeling. The most difficult case I ever did was an infant drowning. I had to x-ray the child while both weeping parents were in the room. The infant could not be revived.

My son attended the local university and lived on campus. Many students lived off campus and the most desirable apartments were right on the edge of bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We received significant numbers of young students on weekends who due to recklessness or intoxication had fallen from balconies 60 to 90 feet to the rocky bluffs that lined the coast at that point. Few fell to the sand or to the ocean which was more distant. It was heartbreaking to examine a young adult with spinal injuries that could paralyze for life. During orientation, I think that college freshmen should be required to attend a safety course that emphasizes the danger of falls from heights and/or bicycles.

I never had my son as a patient. The closest I ever came was one day he fell off his bike on the way to high school. He was rescued by a Good Samaritan and driven to school. I was at work and received a call from the school nurse. He was shaken up but largely injury free. It was an unusual day because my wife, a nurse, and I were working on the same ward at the same time. That almost never happened because we tried to work different shifts so that someone would be at home for my son. I was manning the phones when the call arrived. The call was for my wife and she could not come to the phone. I took the message about my son’s fall and passed it on to her. A sigh of relief from us both.

This is the longest post I have ever written and it is almost done. Thank you for reading so far and a final request. You may be wondering what all the above has to do with Barack. I think that Barack is the one individual on the national scene most likely to give us a safer world. I want a better, safer world for your child and mine. The election of 2012 will be as important as the election of 2008 if not more so. For the sake of our children, please support the re-election  of Barack Obama and the election of members of Congress who will vote for his agenda rather than oppose it.

Racial discrimination

Inner City Pressure

Inner City Pressure (Photo credit: shannonpatrick17)

Racial discrimination in the US is a chicken and egg situation; which came first, the chicken or the egg. Some of the majority believe that the poor/minorities do not deserve our help because the poor/minorities do not live up the ideals of American society. Some of the poor/minorities are lazy (unemployed) and others are criminals (drug dealers and/or gang members). What some of the majority are forgetting or do not understand is that jobs have disappeared from the inner-city ghettos where the poor/minorities are forced to live because they cannot afford anything better. Jobs have migrated to the suburbs and public transit is often inadequate to connect the inner-city job seeker to suburban job opportunities. The job seeker may need private transportation (a car) to gain a job, but he/she needs the job first to afford a car. A catch-22 situation.

Looking at the situation from the viewpoint of the poor/minorities, American society has let them down by providing fewer and fewer services due to policies begun in the 1980s. Education is poor and public transit for job holders and job seekers is inadequate. Without education and good paying jobs, what do we expect the poor/minorities to do? Life must go on. Unemployment/welfare benefits and crime may be the only sources of income for a growing number of Americans.

This is not a policing problem, where putting more of the poor/minorities in prison is the answer. As prisons are privatized, there is a profit motive to incarcerate more and more people. We should be spending our tax dollars on better schools, not more prisons. I believe that the answer to the problem of increasing poverty and crime is better education so that our poor/minorities can become productive members of society. And some portion of the better education must go to educate those of the majority who believe that the poor/minorities are solely or largely responsible for their own situations.

For additional information, I recommend When Work Disappears, The World of the New Urban Poor by William Julius Wilson. I know that the situation of the poor/minorities in the US is a complicated subject with many factors affecting the outcome. Looking at it as a chicken and egg matter is a vast simplification, but I think that it does provide a valid insight that may be helpful in understanding the problem(s).

Crime

English: A bunch of Razor Wire atop a chain li...

Image via Wikipedia

England exiled its criminals to the US, and after the American Revolution, they sent them to Australia. At the time, crime was thought to be inherent or genetic; if you committed a crime, you could not be rehabilitated. In essence, you and your descendents carried a fatal stain in the blood that could never be eradicated. The journey to Australia was a long one and many prisoners died en route if they had no friends to help them prepare for the journey. The fortunate ones carried citrus with them to prevent scurvy.

In Wildness and Razor Wire, Ken Lamberton demonstrated how important friends and family still are to surviving the prison experience. Today, it is the poor and minorities who compose the overwhelming majority of the prison population because they cannot afford qualified legal help and because the war on drugs is fought primarily against them. Our present attitude towards criminals has changed little from England’s attitude 250 years ago. All that has really changed is that we lock people in cells here rather than exile them to a foreign country.

Please see Smart on Crime | Tough on crime | Prison Reform

Wilderness and Razor Wire

English: Ken Lamberton reading in Amherst, MA ...

Image via Wikipedia

Wilderness and Razor Wire, a Naturalist’s Observations from Prison by Ken Lamberton. Ken Lamberton was an award-winning teacher at age 27 when he made the grievous error of falling in love and running away with a student aged 14. He was arrested after two weeks and sent to prison for a total of 12 years served in a split sentence when he was released by one judge and returned to prison by an appellant panel. He was released in 2000 and has not returned to prison. His life story is different in that his wife and three children did not abandon him during the prison years. In fact, his wife returned to school to learn enough law to fight his case from outside prison.

In prison, Ken met Richard Shelton who was teaching creative writing at various prisons in the Arizona penal system. He began writing at the same time he observed the natural world that invaded the prison. He kept records of what he observed, made drawings and read voraciously. Wilderness and Razor Wire is about his prison experience and also about the people and the nature he observed while there. He was fortunate in that most of his sentence was served among other sex offenders where gang violence was minimal. He was brutally attacked and injured when he was mistakenly transferred into the general prison population.

Pets for prisoners were prohibited where he was incarcerated, but prisoners kept pets in defiance of the rules. Some prisoners kept insects and others had small rodents as pets. Lamberton observed that prisoners with pets were happier and less prone to violence. I think some prisons should experiment with allowing inmates to have pets. Lamberton observed that human contact, one person to another, or one man to pet, was essential to prisoner mental health. The most feared punishment was isolation from others, and that is the trend being followed in more and more prisons.

Please see Prison reform | America’s prisons