I wanted to springboard off of Robert’s post about the apparent woeful ignorance of some doctors about guns to highlight an organization that I believe is doing some real good and fighting the good fight. As Robert mentioned in his post, we try to remain relatively apolitical with this blog, but occasionally I do think it is appropriate to use this platform to advocate for our rights as gun owners.
Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO) is a pro-gun rights organization (partnered with the Second Amendment Foundation) that serves the medical community as their primary focus. As you can read on their informational brochure available at their website, DRGO believes that “firearms are not a public health issue.” DRGO seeks to educate healthcare professionals and change public policy for the better in regards to our rights.
If you doubt the importance of this, consider that both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have established distinctly anti-gun positions and policies. While it is debatable how much of an impact this may have on our rights, the increasing government involvement in our nation’s healthcare is not encouraging in this respect.
Just last week, I was faced with the question of whether there were firearms in the house when filling out a form from the office of my son’s pediatrician. I chose to ignore the question and leave the answer blank. I have no idea what a positive response would have provoked, but I also don’t intend to find out. Firearms in my home are my and my family’s business alone, and certainly not the business of healthcare providers that never set foot in my home.
Consider also that most healthcare facilities in the United States are by default dangerous gun free zones due to either policy or law. As an example, only by defying his employer’s anti-gun policy did psychiatrist Lee Silverman save his own life and potentially prevent a murder from growing into a mass shooting at a psychiatric clinic in Pennsylvania. Because he was armed with a concealed handgun, he was able to take definitive action when violent felon and patient Richard Plotts killed caseworker Theresa Hunt by shooting her in the head and then fired at him during an appointment in his office. Fortunately enough, Dr. Silverman did not lose his job because of his actions.
The question of whether to arm emergency medical personnel is a hotly contested topic, but one that has nonetheless been gaining increasing traction over the past few years. I am prevented from defending myself with a weapon while at work by state law and company policy. While I abide by these restrictions, I do not feel that they are warranted or appropriate. Having spent the past 15 years in emergency medical services, I am of the firm opinion that the line between assisting people in crisis and defending one’s life from a deadly threat is quite distinct rather than theoretical. Further, if we remove patients from the equation, my ambulance is my office… I have to frequent the quintessential stop ‘n robs for food, fuel, and toilet just like any other person. In fact, I often don’t necessarily get to choose where I go for these needs. Rather, my dispatcher chooses. I can assure you, being approached by unknowns while posted in a parking lot late at night is not a comfortable feeling, especially when unarmed.
Even if we ignore the issue of allowing EMS to carry concealed, I think some knowledge about firearms is requisite for first responders. I have found guns on altered and unresponsive patients in my career and I have had to pronounce death on individuals that have ended their lives with firearms. More often than not, as part of a crime scene, the firearm is still present and perhaps even being held in the deceased’s grasp. Some basic knowledge about how to handle guns and understanding of their form and function is an asset in such situations.
Hopefully, the educational initiatives and policy activism of DRGO will improve all of the above situations over time. I encourage you to join their organization, especially if you are a healthcare provider. As almost everyone will require some form of healthcare in their lives, the work that DRGO does has widespread and far reaching consequences that will eventually affect all of us. Annual membership is only $35, and I feel that it is well worth it.