Archive for January, 2013

GUNS AND OTHER STUFF

January 9, 2013

I hate guns. This is not a popular attitude where I live, in Wyoming. You know, that state where last week a legislator submitted a bill to designate a “Wyoming State Gun” in response to the national uproar over gun safety. I’m more comfortable with having a “State Dinosaur” (Triceratops) than a State Gun.

As for why I have this attitude, well, I recall being confronted by a soldier brandishing a machine gun, wanting to search me before allowing me to cross the border from Upper Volta into Mali, in West Africa, in 1962. It was scary, as I’d had no real previous experience with guns; I only knew that they killed things and I didn’t want to be included in those statistics. I did glean a bit of satisfaction when in reaching into my jeans pocket as part of the search process, he contacted my handkerchief, the chief recipient of a variety of liquidity issuing from the major cold I was fighting. The look on his face was interesting; I only hoped that his disgust didn’t translate into firing his weapon.

Several years later, while establishing an educational project in the inner city of Gary, Indiana in 1970, two of my colleagues and I were accosted by two drunken young men as we were leaving our school building after classes. One of them smacked one of our trio along the side of the head, with a pistol, knocking the victim’s glasses to the ground. As I took a step forward, the other youngster pulled a sawed -off shotgun from his pants leg, and aimed it at my midsection. When the third member of “our side” took a step, that weapon was swung and pointed at him. I seized the opportunity to “make tracks” and dashed around the corner of the building to seek help (and safety). Some teachers observed this scene from the school building, and called police. The youngsters left suddenly, but were picked up later and ultimately prosecuted.

In 1973, during the first few weeks of my first principal’s position, one of our sixth grade girls was accidently killed while watching her brother clean a gun in their house. A few years later, my closest associate’s nephew was killed, throwing a loaded pistol onto a bed and having it fire, hitting him in the heart.

On another occasion, I was the one who informed one of my teachers that her daughter, about whose problems the teacher and I had been having a discussion during the lunch period, had taken a pistol from her brother’s dresser and shot herself through the heart. I had to take the mother to the funeral home for her to say “goodbye”; while that was happening I was at their house cleaning up the blood from the floor and walls so that at least those reminders would be gone.

So you see, I haven’t had a good track record, with guns.

On the other hand, I don’t have a problem with people hunting, or having a handgun around for protection in their home. I must admit that I don’t personally approve of killing animals just so someone could mount a head on the wall to prove their masculinity or something; I really don’t know how “manly” it is to stand off several hundred yards away and take down the animal with a powerful rifle. If it were done with a pocket knife, well, that would be something worthy of recognition particularly if it were a grizzly bear or an elephant! It would seem that perhaps bowhunting would be somewhere between the two, at least from my perspective.

I refuse to watch any movies in which Charlton Heston appears, after his famous “from my cold, dead hands” remark at the NRA convention several years ago. In its early days, the NRA had a praiseworthy focus on gun safety and all the things that went with that. Living where I do, I realized that all of our kids would either use guns or be with other persons who do, so I initiated a required Hunter Safety class for all fifth graders in my middle school program. In our state, 10-year-olds are eligible to begin hunting, which is the age of most fifth graders. Additionally, we incorporated other topics such as winter survival and hypothermia as further emphasis on personal safety and well-being. In doing so, we used some of the free materials distributed from the NRA, all excellent resources for our purpose.

But in recent years, the focus of that organization appears to have moved from an emphasis on gun safety to one that concentrates on allowing people to do “almost anything they want to do” with weaponry in spite of protests from numerous law enforcement and civic government groups and officials. No one has successfully convinced me that they should have an automatic weapon that’s sole purpose is to kill people, not for hunting. Those that use the “argument” that it’s to protect themselves from “the tyranny of the government when they try to move in to take away our freedom” are merely full of crap. The only thing they’re showing is their ignorance. Others, including some of my close friends, have these weapons; when I ask them why, they say “just for target practice at the shooting range”. My reaction underscores my own ignorance of guns, I fail to understand how firing a storm of bullets at a fixed or even at a moving target constitutes practice. It would seem very easy to hit the target, even for someone unfamiliar with aiming and firing.

All of this venting leads me to take a look at safety for our children in their schools, as well as in other settings such as the theaters, athletic fields and arenas, transportation options, etc. From my perspective of 40 years as a school administrator, it is my opinion that if someone really wants to wreak the kind of terror we have seen occur recently, they will find a way to do so. Having an armed guard at the door will not dissuade that evil from emerging elsewhere. And it’s not only guns; we had a situation many years ago in a small Wyoming town where a man and woman entered an elementary school, with a belt of explosives attached to the man, and held a classroom hostage for hours before he finally blew himself up.

What can be done? There is an excellent summary and guidelines of what parents and schools can do, on the website,  http://www.geniusschoolonline.com   . The document can be found under “Professional Development” and is titled “Keeping our children safe at school”, it can be downloaded and used as a foundation for new approaches to child safety. This summary is a well-written and thoroughly researched compilation from many sources, all listed in a bibliography for more intense study as necessary.

In reading about all of these tragic events, it appears that in many of them, they occurred due to the perpetrators having easy access to weaponry, either legally through retail purchases, through uncontrolled gun show transactions, or persons including children being able to acquire guns through a lack of security procedures within the home.  There are already movements nationally to look at the mental health aspects of the problem in order to hopefully identify persons potentially heading toward becoming one of these “monsters”. There is some discussion of having more rational controls on gun show transactions; multiple magazine weapons are being considered to only be available to law enforcement and the armed services.

I’d like to suggest something that the NRA could do, perhaps to help reform their image among those of us who are not “gun people”. Why not form trained community NRA teams that could be invited into homes of gun owners to evaluate and recommend improvements that would keep weaponry safe from easy access by children or persons other than the owner/registered user? At the same time, they could refresh gun owners and their families through a short session on gun safety. This approach could strengthen the bond between owners and the NRA while at the same time be providing a service that should reduce the unauthorized access to weaponry and improve communication among law enforcement and gun owners.

Other Stuff

Readers of my blogs are aware of my health situation, an auto-immune state referred to as “CIDP”. I hate it when they name diseases with a cluster of letters; it usually means that it’s some really complicated and nasty kind of thing. Anyway, as it has been labeled “progressive”, I am naturally seeking avenues to explore that retards that progression, and as a result I’m pursuing several things: (a) I have an appointment to discuss my status, at the University of Utah Neuropathy Center in Salt Lake City on January 23, (b) I may be looking at an evaluation for celiac disease, which has polyneuropathy as one of its symptoms, and C) my local doctor and I are investigating the use of stem cell therapy as a potential “cure” for the condition.  I shall probably be in the L.A. area of California January 18-21, delivering some items to my son and talking with one of the stem cell therapy providers, in Malibu. Actually, just that last word means it might be expensive.

So far, after a day of research, I am in contact with three providers, and recognize that there is fertile ground here for medical scams. None of the physicians with whom I am connected have any knowledge of this form of therapy for CIDP so it may be difficult to assure that I’m getting “value for money”. One of the hustling providers already called me, this morning, and at one point I almost offered to purchase a used car. One interesting feature is that since it is not legal to administer embryonic stem cells in the U.S., these providers have their administrative offices here but do the therapy elsewhere. So far, Montego Bay, Cancun, Ecuador, Trinidad, and Mexico have been mentioned. It’s a good thing I have lots of frequent flyer miles. Anyway, it looks like I’ll be driving to California and then back to Utah, during the next two weeks. I noted that there is a good educational conference going on while I’m in the L.A. area, but it’s for members only. The list of presentations is outstanding.

We’re in an area of extreme drought, and are reluctantly looking forward to the impending snowstorm scheduled to move in beginning Thursday night. I’m not anxious to do any shoveling, but, as they always say, “We need the moisture”. I’ll just curl up and watch the Broncos try and demolish the Ravens, Saturday afternoon. I’ll probably need the rest from my physical therapy regimen, which will soon be expanded to five days and work on the upper body as well. Until now, the CIDP has only hit the legs and feet, but it may be trickling into the hands. I’m okay with that as long as I still have my jump shot and if it doesn’t affect my putting!

My scheduled school evaluation trip to Saudi Arabia has been cancelled, but I’m still planning to go to Bahrain in mid-April. I’m also hoping that another assignment may be added sometime in March, early April, or May. I’d really like Jordan or Dubai, I was offered the latter but it’s during the same dates as my Bahrain caper.

Always Be Happy!        To Our Youth!

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