Despite a moderately impressive array of credentials (MD, FAAP, board certified pediatrician and, according to her bio blurb at HuffPo, Attending Physician, Assistant Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program, and Director of Pediatric Medical Education at a Fort Lauderdale children’s hospital) I must conclude that Doctor Kristie Rivers is utterly incompetent. I mean really, incredibly, breathtakingly, mind-bogglingly uninformed. Unlike our friends in the gun-grabber community, though, I’m not going to just toss out some ad hominem attacks and call it a day. I am going to lay out in painstaking detail just exactly what brought me to this conclusion. . . .
What brought Dr. Rivers to my attention was her HuffPo piece, The Questions I Can’t Ask About Guns and what she said in this piece led me to my conclusions vis-à-vis her intelligence. She opens with an anecdote about her five-year-old son “shooting” her with a plastic water bottle and the ensuing conversation:
… it was clear we needed to have a little talk. “Guns sure can be dangerous,” I began tentatively. “What do you think you would do if there was a real gun in front of you, like at a friend’s house?”
“Well, Mom, I would probably look at it and maybe even touch it… but I definitely wouldn’t pull the trigger.”
You see, I had never really talked to my son about guns before. I never thought I had a need to. We don’t have guns in our house, and he doesn’t play with toy guns, watch violent movies or play video games, so I naïvely thought we were safe. I thought he would not be interested in guns or would just KNOW they are dangerous and not to be touched. To be honest, his answer shocked some sense into me.
Well, doc, I would certainly hope so. Is that how you handled fire safety, too? Did you just assume he would know that matches and lighters are dangerous and not to be touched? That he would “not be interested” in the stove or pots of boiling water? Tolkien said that “the burned hand teaches best,” but I don’t think he meant that literally (and I’m pretty sure Child Protective Services gets really cranky about third degree burns on preschoolers).
This hardly qualifies as epic-level stupidity, though. I would have classified it under ‘ostrich effect’ and moved on, but then Dr. Rivers drops this one:
Would you believe that as a pediatrician, it is against the law in my state to ask my patients if they have a gun in their home? I am allowed to ask teens intimate details of their sex lives … if they have ever been raped… but not if they have access to a gun. I can ask parents if they have ever had a sexually transmitted infection, if they smoke pot or shoot heroin or snort cocaine… but I cannot ask if they have a weapon that could potentially kill their child if not properly secured.
Why no, Kristie, no I wouldn’t, but that’s because, even though I am not an M.D., nor am I an attending physician, an assistant medical director of the pediatric hospitalist program, nor even a director of pediatric medical education, I have actually read Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act. That’s how I know that it clearly states that, if you believe that the information is relevant to the safety of the patient or another then you certainly can ask about guns in the home. And since in the very next paragraph you state that:
In the United States, approximately 500 children die each year from accidental gunshot wounds, with another 7,500 children hospitalized for non-fatal wounds, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s more than one innocent child every day who is tragically taken from their family.
you obviously do believe that such information is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others. But those numbers bother me a bit; they seem grossly exaggerated a tad high. A little digging led me to this abstract of a paper presented at the AAP’s 2013 National Conference.
Unfortunately, despite having been presented almost 11 months ago I can’t find the actual paper anywhere on the web. In addition, the source database seems to be proprietary making it impossible to verify their results. Furthermore, the abstract cites raw numbers rather than rates. Finally the abstract fails to identify what age range the authors used in defining “children”.
Fortunately a little Bing-Fu turned up this article at ScienceWorldReport.com which explicitly (and repeatedly) states that the study includes children and teens. Since I would never accuse an esteemed pediatrician and writer of deliberately lying, Dr. Rivers’ failure to mention the and teens part of the number and her characterization of these victims as ‘innocent children’ is more evidence of her utter ineptitude. Certainly she would agree that 18-year-old gang-bangers have no place in any definition of ‘innocent children.’
Now that we’ve gotten that bit out of the way, just how many of these (actual) innocent children are ripped from the loving bosom of their families each year, and how has that number/rate changed over the past couple of decades? Unlike some agenda-driven “researchers” I will use the generally accepted definition of children as pre-pubescent and semi-arbitrarily declare that childhood ends on the 13th birthday. Now using the non-proprietary, non-obscure (and decidedly not pro-gun) CDC’s numbers for accidental firearm related deaths I came up with:
But that table really doesn’t tell us anything (other than that Kristie needs to fact-check better), so let’s add some context here. Let’s look at accidental gun deaths, residential fires, drowning and suffocation:Okay, so we’re talking one-tenth the numbers cited by the good doctor, and rates which have stayed relatively constant for the past decade-and-a-half or so. And yes, those aren’t her numbers per se, but since I’ve started blogging, I make it a point to check my facts and my sources instead of uncritically accepting numbers because they agree with my worldview. Crazy, huh?
For the graphically minded, the data look like this:
See that blue line below all the others? That’s the firearm-related accidental death rate for children 0 – 12 years old (inclusive). Now that I am done tap-dancing all over the unverified numbers Dr. Rivers presented as facts, let’s look at what more she has to say:
And yet if you walked into my office tomorrow, I could not ask if you have a gun in your home.
See above; since you firmly (even if mistakenly) believe that asking about guns in the home is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others then yes you can ask. Again, read the law before you start pontificating.
I could not provide safety tips on how to secure a gun to keep your child safe. I could not teach you how to talk to your child about firearm safety.
SCREEECH! Back the truck up, Kristie. Nowhere in the law does it limit what you can tell a patient. The closest it comes to that is in Section (6) where it states that a physician “should refrain from unnecessarily harassing a patient about firearm ownership during an examination.” But Kristie isn’t done with her hysterical misrepresentations:
And if I do ask, I could lose my medical license, face thousands of dollars in fines, or even go to jail.
Yeah, sort of for the first two; as for the going to jail part, a picture is worth 1,000 words . . .
Under the penalties prescribed in 456.072(2)(a-h), for a ‘substantial violation’ of the Protection Act “the board or department if there is no board” can limit, suspend, or revoke your license, issue a letter of reprimand, administratively fine you up to $10,000 for each offense and/or require remedial education. There is no ‘jail’ option.
That being said, doctor, just how harshly do you think your fellow ignorant hoplophobes on “the board, or the department when there is no board” are going to treat you when you stand in front of them and claim that you really, truly sincerely believed that the questions you asked and the “gun safety” information you presented were relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others?
I can see someone at the back of the room waving a hand … You agree that Dr. Rivers may be impaired, but you want to know why I said she’s incompetent to boot? Excellent question. Let’s just pop ahead to her final two paragraphs, shall we?
I keep my nose out of politics and do not even pretend to understand the intricacies of the laws regarding gun control. But I am quite passionate about protecting innocent children. …
I want to instill in my son a healthy respect for firearms. My son hopefully walked away from our conversation with a very different view of guns. Not because I am an expert on gun control and have all the answers, but simply because I educated him on the potential dangers. …
She admits that she had never previously thought about having ‘that talk’ with her son, that she and her family don’t own real guns, don’t own toy guns, don’t watch violent movies or even play video games. Given this level of avoidance I have to assume an equal level of ignorance on the topic. I doubt very much that Kristie has a permit to carry or shoots three-gun on the weekends. Indeed, the last two paragraphs of her piece explicitly state that she is ignorant about firearm laws and gun control, yet she seems to think that she’s still qualified to give advice to patients on safe storage of guns.
On her bundoo.com site she says:
If you have a gun in your home, you can keep your child safe by always keeping the gun unloaded and locked up. Be sure to store and lock the bullets in a separate location from the gun itself. Also, hide the keys to the locks …
A number of years ago I ran across this form which asked physicians to either list the training and accreditations which qualified them to give gun safety advice or else certify that their malpractice insurance and personal assets would be sufficient to cover damages should a patient take their uninformed advice and suffer a loss as a result.
I wonder if Kristie would be willing to sign that form.