Don’t panic

We had our third medical center shooting since October. Often in our culture, a third incident with details in common with two previous events begins panicked calls for changes. After all, it’s a detective novel cliché that one incident is an accident, two are coincidence, but three is a pattern.

First, let’s dispel the idea that there is a pattern, outside of the weapons of choice, which were, of course, guns. The first incident in October at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center was a shot fired by an off-duty police officer. The second was the incident at Urology Nevada near Renown Medical Center in which a probably mentally ill person killed a doctor and himself and wounded two others.

In the third incident, elderly William Dresser allegedly shot his wife at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. All we can do is speculate about motives, but this has some indications that it was an attempted mercy killing.

And not to shoot a dead horse, but doesn’t this help to undermine the idea that more guns on school campuses will decrease gun violence in schools? Medical centers, except when specifically posted, are not what are known by the gun lobby as “gun-free zones.”

America is already an armed fortress. As a country, we’ve over-reacted to isolated terror attacks and extremely rare attacks on government buildings. We’ve added prison-like security to many of our schools because of extremely rare school shootings. We’ve added layers of privacy-invading security checks to get on airplanes, even domestic flights. We’ve become a country that lives in paranoid fear, while real violent crime has been dropping for years.

Remember when we used to proud to be the land of the free? Now we’ve developed an international reputation as being the land of the surveilled and the home of the timid. We should not look for ways to further decrease our liberty. The ability to move freely is characteristic of a free society, but we see those rights further and further restricted. We should be looking for ways to control a security-obsessed government because it’s not just the foreign or domestic terrorists the government is treating with suspicion, it’s all of us.

There were many areas of worry that were identified in those fear-filled days following the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. For example, gasoline tanker trucks were identified as having more explosive potential than those 747s, but the devices that were shown as effective methods for police to disable the pneumatic braking systems were never legislated onto those trailers.

Attacks on medical centers are worrisome, but it has become obvious that Americans don’t have an appetite to solve the real underlying issues: mental health, our health-care system, and our militarized society.