To be armed isn't always to be a hero


There has been a lot of discussion about whether expanding the number of firearms carried by individuals will make our communities safer. The implication is that it is the gun that guaranties the safety of the individual. But to respond with a firearm to perceived danger correctly and efficiently is not part of human nature for most people. For example:

• The minister in southern Minnesota. When he bought the firearm, he had a certain scenario in mind with regard to protecting his home. When the event occurred, he forgot his original plan, shot blindly and wounded his granddaughter. There would have been serious consequences if a police officer had fired blindly at an unarmed individual.

• During the Oregon mall shooting, one of the shoppers in the mall had a firearm. He wisely chose not to get involved.

• When a police officer was shot in Cold Spring, the part-time officer on the scene was not able to respond properly to what was happening.

I am not advocating getting rid of firearms. I own several and have enjoyed shooting for more than 50 years. But we need to recognize the correct place for firearms in our society and develop a controlled and balanced approach with regard to their ownership and use.


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In the discussion about improving school safety, two areas have been underemphasized.

• Every hospital and almost every doctor's office has an electronic medical record.

• Federal privacy laws could be changed to mandate programming into the electronic records a checkbox: "Is this patient safe to purchase firearms?" Physicians and providers could be mandatory reporters, just as we currently are for suspected child abuse. When the "no" box is checked, a report would be sent to a central database, accessible by gun dealers. The box could be checked "yes" at future visits if the condition that made gun ownership unsafe improved. As a physician, I currently have the legal ability to hospitalize someone against their wishes, report threats or dangerous situations, and report suspected abuse or neglect, with immunity for good-faith mistakes. This is an extension of this.

We also could invest in hardened, bulletproof, locking doors for classrooms, making parts of each classroom's walls bulletproof as a safe area, and building new schools with partitions that close automatically in response to gunfire.


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When faced with other human behaviors that have the potential to have lethal results, we have moved to legislate corporate and individual responsibility. Why should guns be any different? Why not use automobiles and driving, and the tobacco industry and smoking, as templates for changes in gun policy? We can, and have, as a nation, regulated, taxed and spelled out consequences for individual and corporate rights and freedoms when they cause dangers to the individuals who use them and to those around them. We require auto manufactures to adhere to safety standards and drivers to take written and practical exams and pay for annual licenses and registrations, and to carry insurance to cover injury to self and others. These are good templates to start with for regulating gun manufacturing, and individual gun access, purchase and continued use.


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I propose that the state enact a law imposing strict tort liability on the manufacturer of the gun used, on the manufacturer of the ammunition used and upon the retail dealer who sold the gun and/or ammunition used in the death or injury of any person hurt by the discharge of the gun unless the gun and ammunition used was in the line of duty of the military or law enforcement. This would be effective in reducing such deaths and would not violate the Second Amendment.


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Let's say Obama gets his taxes. What then?


President Obama and Democrats have been crystal-clear on where increased taxes should come from, but I don't have the foggiest idea how or where they intend to cut spending. Let's assume the president gets a revenue increase of $150 billion and cuts defense by $100 billion a year. That still leaves an annual deficit of $1 trillion. Nobody in their right mind thinks continued annual deficits of $1 trillion are either prudent or sustainable. Those with the loudest voices (i.e., all news media, and politicians) need to explain where we go after we give the president exactly what he wants. Are we going to be told the spending cuts will come in 2017, 2018, 2020 or 2030? That would be a funny joke if it wasn't such a serious lie.


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As we continue to edge closer to the fiscal cliff and the potential economic downturn it represents, I wonder whether congressional Republicans realize just how disrespectful it is to the democratic process for them to be unwilling to compromise. After all, with the U.S. electorate so close to being evenly divided, it is incumbent upon our legislators to realize that they represent citizens with stances on both sides of an issue and thus are morally obligated to avoid dogmatic intransigence.