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July 12, 2013

Another Victory for Nixonian "Justice"

As the Zimmerman trial was approaching its disappointing resolution, I will confess to a bias of my own: I had believed him guilty of (at least) manslaughter since first reading that a black teenager had been killed in Florida in a stand your ground case. Although, I'd never even heard of legislation by that name, I immediately recognized its NRA fingerprints and have long been ashamed of American world leadership in gunshot deaths, whether from accident, murder, or suicide.

That wasn't always the case; in 1960, when I was a General Surgery resident at a large Army hospital in El Paso, two of my fellow residents were avid gun collectors. At that time, West Texas abounded in collectible old Colts and Winchesters. Both of my friends were collectors who subscribed to the Shotgun News, a print publication they read avidly. Under their influence, I briefly became a bit of a gun nut myself; acquiring- among other firearms- 2 revolvers: a .357 magnum and a convincing .22 cal. replica of an old long barrel Colt 45. I even bought reloading equipment and some black powder so I could reload my own .38 cal "wadcutter" ammunition.

Sometime in the Summer of 1962, late in the third year of Surgery residency, I experienced an event that led me to rethink guns: we were entertaining guests on a balmy desert evening at the new government quarters we'd just occupied. There was an unlighted open area about 100 yards wide between our rear patio and our nearest back-door neighbors that our 3 kids (all under 5) referred to as the "big desert."

Suddenly, strident male voices were heard. My first response was to go to the spare bedroom where the guns were kept and grab the .357 magnum. Then common sense prevailed. I'd been drinking a bit and the voices were most likely no threat: young GIs who had been carousing on Saturday night and were taking a shortcut back to their barracks.

I put the .357 back on its shelf and sold both hand guns the next week. I still think of that reaction as both a moment of sanity and a lucky escape from potential tragedy.

Less than a year later, I was assigned to Japan following completion of my General Surgery residency. I left the two long guns- a 16 gauge Ithaca pump shotgun and a Remington "varmint" rifle in storage rather than take them overseas; largely because of Japan's onerous restrictions on gun ownership.

After returning to San Francisco in '67 I retrieved both guns from storage, but didn't have time to use them because I was so busy as a Thoracic Surgery resident at Letterman and shortly after I left the service to enter private practice in '71, both were stolen in a daring daylight burglary that caught us completely by surprise. I have since learned that guns are among the first things opportunistic burglars are seeking- along with jewelry, drugs, and money.

Another lesson learned while still in the Army was that the wounds produced by the modern high velocity ammunition that has been favored by the world's armies since the end of the Second World war are far more destructive to tissue than those produced by the weapons used in WW2 and Korea.

Over the years I have also come to believe that America's fascination with guns is a behavioral anomaly not shared by other "civilized" nations. What I also learned while in El Paso was that Mexico's revolutionary history had led it to oppose the importation of military style weapons, a policy it clearly still adheres to because arms smuggled from North of the Rio Grande where they are cheap and easily available, have become such a lucrative sideline for the Mexican drug cartels that didn't even exist when I was in El Paso between 1958 and 1963, yet have become so deadly, only since passage of Nixon's Controlled Substances Act in 1970 made the importation of marijuana such a lethal bonanza for criminals on both sides of the "law."

The next entry will deal with America's disgraceful racial legacy: the elephant in America's living room so many of its lawyers have been blind to and are curiously unable to smell.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 12, 2013 03:19 AM