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Today, as the president begins his second term, we have many leftover issues. One of the most important is gun control.

I know the audience that reads this is the pro-gun crowd. I am not.

I am so far out there that I would outlaw football. Violence and violent games have no place in a civil society. That is what our frontal brain lobe is supposed to do: protect us from our impulses. When you damage brains by assaults on the head, or they get damaged from a disease such as Alzheimer’s, trouble may ensue. Football players who hurt themselves or others and Alzheimer’s patients who become combative are situations that result from brains being damaged by injury or disease.

Why add to the costs to society by making guns more available?

President Obama took on a few of these issues head on. The Brady Campaign was not too happy with President Obama before the Sandy Hook shooting. However, this week he has taken some steps to redeem himself. One of the first areas that’s going to get his attention is gun research.

Although most of the blame for the end of Centers for Disease Control funding for gun research can be laid squarely on the pro-gun lobby, there was a more quiet campaign to end research on all violence because of concerns about racial bias. Most of these fights were in the mid-1990s. President Obama specifically named the CDC this week.

The agency was stopped from doing any research into firearms. This amounted to a $2.6 million loss. In addition, and most egregiously, the CDC was prevented from data collection following acts of violence by guns. In other words, details about who was injured or killed and why has been off the books. Every other disease makes its way into the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, but not deaths and injuries from guns. The reason? Somehow the pro-gun folks had managed to convince Congress that the CDC was carrying out a political agenda!

Several other issues the president took on included making sure the Affordable Health Care Act does not preclude physicians asking about guns. I addressed the issue of HIPAA laws last week and the fact that they are not helpful for the treatment of mental illness. This directive of President Obama’s, and the clarification of the law, will make a big difference. Ask any emergency room personnel about some of the “frequent fliers” (the patients who most often come for care), and they can most likely name the individuals who scare them the most.

The Obama directives include training more responders in the areas of mental health and violence. Just like the “if you see something, say something” campaign after 9/11, the additional training of health-care workers can make a huge difference in identifying the people who may become a problem.

My guess is that once the Sandy Hook investigation is completed, we will find out that the home-schooled shooter worried people and that when his mother took him for recreational target practice, someone would have flagged him as a potential problem who should not have been involved in gun practice.

Obama will ensure agencies share their information. Most Americans thought this was done after 9/11. It wasn’t. Hopefully this – along with ensuring criminals and others who apply to own a gun are prosecuted – should make a dent in illegal gun purchases.

I personally would like to see a ban on guns, but I know that is not going to happen. Despite all the pre-speech hoopla saying Obama was going to take away everyone’s gun, the president’s directives are sensible and, frankly, tame.

It is a good start toward stopping future Sandy Hook massacres and getting people the treatment they need so we can stop these mass murders.

 

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