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Monday, March 25, 2013

MENTAL ILLNESS AND GUN VIOLENCE

   
I wanted the psychiatrist to address the elephant in the room 
regarding gun violence.

    The gun control debate rages on an on. I have attended rallies and town halls. I have read innumerable posts on-line and newspaper articles. I have had countless conversations with gun enthusiasts and protectors of our 2nd Amendment. I know that this is an important issue. Yet the longer the debate goes on the less inspired I have felt to write about it. As I watched the video of the Fox45 Town Hall on Gun Control in Maryland that I attended last week...it finally hit me. We all know that gun control is not the issue of what happened in any of these mass shootings. Our gut tells us it is a human defect, a societal problem, but the politicians--wanting to appear as "doing something"--have introduced gun control bills all over the country. They have forced every freedom-loving citizen to engage in fighting these bills that do nothing except make the politicians look good and the public feel good. The unintended  consequences (or are they?) are the infringements on law-abiding citizens' liberties. These laws do not help the mentally ill or protect the public from their sometimes deadly affects on our society. These laws do nothing to repair the damage done to our society by the glorification of extreme violence in movies, on television, and the most damaging of all video games. That would take time, money, and most of all courage.
While everyone is focusing on an inanimate object the people who need help go without it and many more people will be killed because of it. Unfortunately, a good guy or a mentally healthy guy with a gun is their only defense.
    There was a psychiatrist on the panel of the Fox45 Town Hall. To be honest I was a little bored with most of the discussion, not because it isn't important, but because I have heard it all many times over the last couple of months. What did interest me was the doctor. He didn't say much. He only spoke when he was directly asked a question, unlike the other panelists who talked over each other trying to make their points. He sat quietly with a pained look on his face. The cynic in me wondered if he was trying to appear interested. I wanted to know "his story." Those who read my blog know my story about my sister's shooting death (http://tinyurl.com/berdpvu), and that I believe that her death was a result of the failure of the Veterans Administration, law enforcement, the court system, mental health workers, social workers, and lawyers to protect her and the glorification of violence in movies such as "Rambo," and I suspect similar-themed video games. I wanted to hear solutions from this doctor. I wanted him to address the elephant in the room. 
    The moderator finally asked the doctor a direct question about the role of mental illness in these mass shootings. This is what he said,
We don't know who the ticking time bomb is. We don't know who is going to pop. We are not in a position to predict violence. It sounds like we are trained to do that, but that is not really our training. ANYONE IN THIS AUDIENCE COULD PREDICT VIOLENCE AS WELL AS I CAN. 
This is not an answer to the question. This is not a solution. This is a defense. I was so annoyed with his answer.  I am still annoyed because it enabled everyone to go back to focusing on the gun. At this point I realized that this was about him and not about the issue. The answer is not even an honest answer! Do you mean to tell me that in all of his years of education they did not have one course on detecting when someone may be a danger to himself or others? I refuse to believe it! I also believe that in the most recent cases most of everyone in the audience probably could have predicted a possible violent outcome, and therefore there had to be some professional somewhere in their lives who could have as well. Somebody dropped the ball and he knows it or he would have answered the question instead of putting up a defense.
       Later the moderator asked the audience a question to be answered by a clap of hands. The question was, "There is a sufficient amount of money and attention dedicated to mental health issues, yes or no?" The audience overwhelmingly believed  there was not. 
     The doctor again went on the defense offering no solution and no hope. He said,
There is not enough money. There will never be enough money. We have a doctor shortage. Try to get an appointment with a psychiatrist today. I am booking May. You have a choice--the ER or me in May. IS IT MY FAULT IF YOU COMMIT A CRIME BETWEEN NOW AND MAY? WE ARE NOT CLAIRVOYANT. WE ARE NOT MIND READERS, AND WE CAN'T PREVENT VIOLENCE.
Really? This is the message he wanted to bring to the conversation? This is all he had for us? The moderator pressed him for some kind of a solution or just a sliver of hope, and asked him, "Are there any stop-gap measures or perhaps social workers who can possibly fill a void?" He said,
They are under the same situation. Call your social worker and see if she will book you by the end of April. 
The doctor sat looking pained almost to the very end of the night when he was asked, "If you suspect a ticking time bomb, where is that line between a patient's privacy and your responsibility to report that to authorities?" The great doctor said, 
If someone presents imminent danger, I can involuntarily commit them with another physician to a facility. That can be upheld by a judge 72 hours later. If it is upheld, BY THIS BILL---THAT IS WHERE YOU HAVE LOST YOUR RIGHT TO A HAND GUN. THAT PUTS ME IN A DIFFICULT SITUATION because many people who are involuntarily committed, that is a small snap shot of their life 3, 5, 6, 7 days, months, years later they are perfectly fine. Now they have to re-apply for a hand gun. 
AS A PHYSICIAN WITH ALL THE LAWYERS WE HAVE IN THIS TOWN, I'M NOT GOING TO SIGN A DOCUMENT THAT SAYS THAT THIS PATIENT IS GOING TO BE SAFE WITH A HAND GUN FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES (sic). THAT IS A HUGE LIABILITY.
One of the other panelists stated that the law does allow the appeal, but as stated by the doctor, no doctor would  likely support your appeal. Again, he is worried about his personal liability. I understand that doctors and social workers are people too and that they need to look out for themselves. However, I would like to think that many of them were led by some level of "altruism" to get into their career fields. This doctor could have used this forum to say anything that he felt was important regarding mental illness and gun violence, and all that he addressed the entire night was liability. I found that very disappointing. 
    My questions to the doctor would have been: Why aren't politicians, mental health physicians, social workers, healthcare workers, and politicians introducing and supporting bills that help the mentally ill? Why aren't they demanding government funds and introducing laws that would address the real issues behind these mass murders? Why are we all focusing on an inanimate object that can not kill anyone without someone with a mental illness or a criminal background or intent pulling the trigger? I just want to stop the music and stop the dance that we are all engaged in and address the real problems! 
   The doctor did say one thing that I could agree with wholeheartedly. The moderator asked him, "How do we bridge the issue of trust, or lack of trust, that many people feel towards the government?" The doctor separated himself from himself for a moment and said,
I think it's real concerning when we have political officials who say take full advantage of a good crisis to promote your career and your political stance. 
It becomes very hard to trust that mentality and the narcissism that goes along with taking advantage of a crisis to promote your career.
This is often what we see on TV. We see these three-week long stories and every politician trying to get their word in edgewise.

Bravo Doctor! Bravo!!







Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TOWN HALL ON MARYLAND GUN CONTROL





TOWN HALL ON MARYLAND GUN CONTROL: Please consider participating on-line! Don't even have to leave home to be an ACTIVE anti-gun control activist.

NEEDED: SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVISTS AGAINST GUN CONTROL! We need people to connect during the programming with questions and comments AGAINST GUN CONTROL. They will have a "social media desk" and people can connect via Facebook and Twitter

PARTICIPATE AT:

www.foxbaltimore.com or
www.facebook.com/foxbaltimore or
Twitter @foxbaltimore #wbfftownhall


WHEN: MARCH 21, 7:00PM-8:30PM

WHERE: This event will be live-streamed at FoxBaltimore.com. 

[It will berebroadcast on channel 45 either Friday, March 22 or Saturday, March 23.]


PANELISTS: 

Vinny DeMarco - Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence

Scott Shellenberger – Baltimore County States Attorney

Del. Michael Smigiel – District 36, member House Judiciary Committee

Ray Givens – Western Maryland Sportsman Coalition

MORE INFORMATION: Lynda Givens Evans 301-992-6943, justlynda59@yahoo.com

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

MDPETITIONS PROVOKES LIBERAL LAWMAKERS IN ANNAPOLIS

 It doesn't make sense.    

   The same people who vehemently reject voter I.D. want to make it harder to sign a petition for referendum. Voting has major lasting results. Petitions just give regular citizens the right to vote on one issue. They claim that there is no fraud in our voting system, yet they see fraud around every corner of a petition drive. There have been many known instances of voter fraud, most recently in the news was  ACORN (http://tinyurl.com/abd736l). No fraud has been reported, much less proven, in the three petitions that made it to referendum in the last election cycle.
   When I go to vote to elect leaders of this country, which will affect the direction this country and how it will proceed for at least four years, I am only asked my name and my address. I am not asked for proof that I am who I say I am  or that I live where I say I live. They are not allowed to ask me for proof! It's apparently against my civil rights!!
   When I go to sign a petition, however, if they get their way in Annapolis, I can not fill out a form for myself with my signature and mail it in because there is no proof of my signature. I can not get a sheet of signatures and sign at the bottom that I saw these people sign their names. I have to sign that I saw each person sign. Do I need to ask them for I.D.? Maybe, the trend is in favor of more not less requirements as they discuss senate bills SB 706 and SB 673. Just a reminder...every signature is checked by the Maryland State Board of Elections. 
Are they afraid or just arrogant...or both? 

   Even though all three bills that were successfully petitioned for referendum were ultimately upheld by the voters, they still feel it is necessary to try to stop any further petitioning. Are they afraid that they may be overturned on future bills? Or are they just arrogant? How dare the average citizen second-guess (get a vote) on anything that they do "in our best interest." I get it that they are elected to represent us. That does not mean that they always get it right. That is why the petition process is allowed by our state constitution. Questioning our government is a basic civil right. Yet they intentionally want to make it so complicated and time consuming that nobody would or could be successful at it. 

Neil Parrott threatened the smug security of a one-party government with MDPetitions.com!

   There had not been a successful petition drive in the state of Maryland for 20 years prior to this last election. It was too difficult. Once you completed the grueling task of collecting the required signatures, so many of them would be  rejected for the most minor detail that it was nearly impossible to collect enough signatures. Twenty years! Then Neil Parrott had the innovative idea to create MDPetitions.com. People could now go on-line, print out a form with the exact data needed (name and address as it appears on your voter registration). All you had to do was sign it correctly as shown. Opponents of the website claim that it could be fraudulent simply by nature of being on the Internet. This is an intentional mischaracterization. You do not electronically sign it on-line. It merely prints out your own data on a form, as it appears on your voter registration, and you sign your name as shown and mail it in. You have to input your date of  birth to ensure that it identifies you correctly. 
   This does not mean that the grueling signature gathering process is no longer needed. I was not able to work the petition drives except for an hour here and there, but I watched my friends work day and night, day after day, sacrificing time with family and recreational time, and even sleep! Most of the signatures are still collected the old fashioned way in the local market, at the carnival, and other public places. Currently you have to collect 55,736 signatures, but you really need to collect twice that amount because 20-30 percent of those signatures will be rejected. Again, just a reminder...every signature is checked by the Maryland State Board of Elections. 
   Delegate Parrott has been attacked in the media and by liberals for supposedly costing the taxpayer money by running these petition drives. I would bet my last dollar that he gives himself 110 percent to his job as delegate. In addition, he gives his time, energy, finances and untold costs as does his wife April and even his children to the petition process. The taxpayer is getting a bargain on Neil Parrott.

Paying signature collectors is only suspect when done by Conservatives.

    One of the anti-petition bills currently being debated questions the practice of paying signature collectors (circulators) by the signature. Again, these same Liberals defended ACORN's right to pay people to register voters in the same manner. This is registering VOTERS not mere PETITIONERS. A U.S. Circuit Court decided in Ficker vs Montgomery County that an organization may pay people to collect petition signatures. They can not, of course, pay people for their signatures. At a recent hearing on SB 673, Paul Jacobs, president of Citizens in Charge, argued for it calling it "productivity pay," further stating that it is the only way to accurately pay for the service. He said that paying someone by the hour could encourage unproductive workers to defraud their employers by claiming that there weren't any available signers. Again, they are paid to collect signatures, not to sign their signature. This is also often common practice for real estate developers who must poll stakeholders in an area of interest. They in fact could profit from the outcome, yet there has been no laws introduced to keep them from paying the pollsters.
   
   They simply want to make it harder for the average citizen.

   And how do they plan to do it...by telling the public through the Liberal media and repetitive sound bites  that the petition process is "too easy." My first reaction is to ask why should it be hard? It is merely the right of the average citizen to vote on a single issue. We know it is not too easy. It is not easy at all. It takes many dedicated people to collect a massive amount of signatures in a short amount of time. These signatures must be checked for accuracy. It takes money, printing materials, and coordination with districts across the state. It is an exhaustive and exhausting process, but it was done successfully, so they need to make it harder. The anti-petition bills are SB 673/HB493 and SB 706/3lr1023. The following is a  brief description of these bills and the new requirements that make it harder for the average citizen to have a voice.

SB 673 The Referendum Integrity Act

   Even the title of this bill is obnoxious, implicating that is is correcting some form of fraud either suspected or proven, neither of which is true in the three successful petition drives that led to the introduction of this bill. The following are changes to the petition process required by this bill:
  • A Ballot Issue Committee must first be established.
  • One Ballot Issue Committee per issue. 
  • A statement notifying signers that the petition form will not serve as a change of address form must be added to the form.
  • Funds collected for the purpose of a petition drive must be treated as campaign finance activity and must file campaign finance reports by certain dates.
  • A statement notifying signers that information provided on a petition is subject to public disclosure must be added to the form. [This has led to harassment of petitioners, even being fired from their job.]
  • The signer must now provide their date of birth on the petition form.
  • On-line requests for a signature page may no longer be "pre-populated" providing your necessary data as it appears on your voter registration. You must type in the information, re-introducing the minor technicalities that can lead to rejection.
  • Name, address, and date of birth must be entered as they appear on your voter registration.
  • A person can no longer sign the petition form for themselves and mail it in. They must be validated by a circulator's signature. 
  • Circulators must take an on-line, state-endorsed training course.
  • Circulators may not be compensated by the number of signatures collected. [Most are volunteers.]
  • Circulators must initial each signature on a petition sheet.


SB 706 Constitutional Amendment 

     This bill is sponsored by Senators Madaleno, Kelley, Montgomery, and Robey and is assigned to the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. 
    This is a constitutional amendment that seeks to increase the number of of signatures required from 3 percent to 5 percent of all qualified voters. This number would include the deceased voters that are still on the registration rolls because the Maryland State Board of Elections and the Attorney General's office refuse to purge the rolls. According to the MDPetitions.com fundraiser letter, it would increase the number of required signatures from 55,736 to 185, 000. This is a significant additional burden to the already labor-intensive process. In order to have enough signatures to make it through the Maryland State Board of Elections validation review, they believe that they would have to collect 200,000 signatures. This would have to be done within the same time constraints as when they were required to collect one third of that amount. This truly is the Anti-Neil Parrott Bill. Had he not succeeded in bringing three bills to referendum, they would not be introducing this extremely prohibitive amendment. 

Please contact your representatives and senators and tell them that you are against these bills:

To donate to MDPetitions, please go to http://mdpetitions.com/donate or mail a check to:

MDPetitions.com
c/o Chairman Neil Parrott
P.O.Box 31
Funkstown, MD 21734