URIBE: Emergency response to gun violence

Should a loaded gun be placed next to the defibrillator?

The week before his second inauguration, President Obama again exercised the one talent he has that will carve his name in infamy. He signed 23 executive orders violating our constitutional rights and putting the lives of more American citizens under his thumb. This time, the Second Amendment was at center stage.

During the signing, he was surrounded by four children, a clear play for our emotional response to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. Unfortunately, his call for bans on guns will not actually solve the problem. If anything, it will make the problem worse.

The city of Chicago is famous for its attempt to keep citizens from owning guns. When asked about the city’s high violence rate, Chicago Police Commissioner Garry McCarthy remarked, “We have a proliferation of illegal firearms.” Mr. Obama’s $500 million gun violence package will do nothing to prevent the proliferation of illegal firearms.

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School was truly a tragedy, but Mr. Obama’s response oversteps the bounds of his office. No tragedy can justify limiting our freedoms, especially when lives are on the line.

As National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre says, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” With more than 23 years of experience teaching basic and advanced techniques in saving lives, I am amazed at how heroically even the most timid person will behave when a human life is at stake. The only limiting factor is whether or not the potential lifesaver is adequately prepared.

No one thinks twice about applying the pads of an automatic external defibrillator to a stranger’s chest and pushing a button on command to deliver an electrical shock to save a human life. Likewise, people recognize the need for the Heimlich maneuver when someone in a restaurant is choking.

So why do people have a problem deciding what to do when it comes to saving the lives of our children in the classroom, saving the lives of church congregations or saving the lives of theater patrons when someone threatens them with a gun? Do they not deserve the same consideration? Does it really take 23 executive orders or an act of Congress? Does it have to cost the taxpayers $500 million?

The idea of arming teachers has received mixed reactions. Many teachers do not feel safe owning or using a firearm. Others want access to a gun in the classroom to protect their charges.

It is known that 350,000 people die from cardiac arrest every year, more than 33,000 die from auto accidents, and more than half a million die from cancer. Yet our government overlooks all these deaths, and has suddenly taken on a quest to stop deaths from gun violence. Mr. Obama did not take steps to mandate CPR certification for everyone, to ban automobiles or demand a cure for cancer. The focus on guns ignores statistics showing that increasing gun ownership actually lowers crime.

Our schools, churches, theaters, stadiums and other venues where people gather should consider including another emergency item next to the defibrillator: a loaded firearm. A containment device can be installed in the wall, completely enclosed with a metal door and a hand-activated combination like other gun safes. It should be accessible from a central location and, in larger facilities, additional ones could be placed in offices of principals or managers.

Only designated employees would have access to them. Selected personnel should be trained in firearm safety and the laws regarding the proper use of the weapon in the unfortunate event it would ever be needed. This can all be done for less than $500 million.

It is highly improbable that any armed criminal would dare enter a school or theater knowing that someone had the capability of defending the people inside. Burglars rarely enter a home with an alarm system. In times of emergency, the American people will defend themselves. A properly armed facility can halt a deadly attack or, at least, minimize casualties before first responders arrive at the scene.

The media have sensationalized the Sandy Hook, Aurora and Sikh Temple shootings, offering the president and members of Congress an opportunity to shine. These misguided leaders are now wasting time toying with the definition of an “assault” rifle and creating more ways to encroach upon our privacy. Capitol Hill sees an opportunity to legislate, to regulate, to control, and this esoteric fodder does nothing but expose the next school or theater targeted for some warped mind’s 15 minutes of fame.

Mr. Obama and Congress should spend their time performing the duties as described in the Constitution and stop messing with our Second Amendment. Meanwhile, the public should install secured emergency firearms in public areas and develop training programs. As Americans, we will defend ourselves. We will protect our children. It is our moral obligation, and it is our right — at least, for now.

Dr. Constance Uribe is a general surgeon and author of “The Health Care Provider’s Guide to Facing the Malpractice Deposition” (CRC Press, 1999).

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