Does An Exception Prove The Rule?

This week, in a Philadelphia suburb, a mental health patient shot and killed his case worker and wounded his doctor. The shooter was in the doctor’s office in a section of a much larger wellness center. The entire building was a “gun free” zone.

The rest of the story, was a surprise.

The doctor pulled his gun and returned fire. When the dust settled, the patient was seriously wounded and being restrained by other hospital employees who entered the room through windows. Police officials credit the doctor’s action with saving the lives of an untold of other hospital patients, workers, and visitors.

The facts seem to support this claim. Packing even when expressly prohibited saved a life and possibly many others.  One for the NRA?

Maybe but not for certain. A doctor’s oath is “do no harm”.  The oath seems compromised when he/she is packing, and completely over the line when using a firearm while on duty.

So how do we reconcile the use in self defense? This is a trick question.  The doctor never needed to be put in jeopardy.

Mistake number one is that the patient should never have gained access carrying a gun and more than 40 bullets. Mistake number two, some one considered potentially dangerous should never be in a position to attack the doctor or case worker without security personal present. In short, the “wellness center” was not prepared for a reasonably predictable outcome if there were no steps to insure guns were in fact prohibited.

The NRA will argue that everyone should be carrying. They feel packing will act both as a deterrent and as a self defense measure. Hmmm.

In this case, however, the patient, if he thought the doctor was packing, would have fired at him first before then shooting the case worker. I don’t like this picture.

The alternative to unlimited carry is keeping guns in homes, fields for hunting, and shooting ranges for sport.

For public buildings it is impractical to screen everyone.  Those buildings where mental health clients are more likely to frequent, we should remember President Reagan.  He once said, “Trust but verify”.   Mental health patients, considered capable of violent behavior, should be screened (metal detectors) prior to doctor’s office or hospital entrances.

No sets of procedures, however, other than the most draconian, can assure complete safety from irrational acts. Arming everyone will simply put more weapons in the hands of those unable (or unwilling) to use them safely.

Doctors with guns, even though in this situation greater tragedy was prevented, is not the answer.

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