No weapons on campus

This is the weekend before midterms. There are many students that are practically living in the cadaver labs in preparation for the tests. I myself spent 5 hours there yesterday, and 4 this morning. There was an incident at the school that really irritates me. When I went in yesterday, I noticed that the lounge that we used had been trashed. There were things torn from the walls, and general vandalism. The other students told me that there had been a “scruffy looking” guy in there (and his face around the nose and mouth was covered in blue paint) when they arrived at 7 a.m., but that he ran away when challenged. Found in there were a number of stolen goods, including a television, food, and other personal items. Security was called and they took a report.
I stayed until 2 o’clock and left. Shortly after that, the guy returned. Security came again, and he fought with them, they pepper sprayed him, and he ran. They caught him several blocks away. There has been a campus safety notice advising us not to be in the building alone, as they do not know if he had accomplices. (Great, the weekend before midterms).
Of course the school has a “no weapons” policy, violation of which will get you expelled. I am sure that the dirtbags will follow that policy as well as they have the “no stealing” the “no trespassing” the “no vandalizing” the “no huffing paint” and the “no treating the school as a drug den/homeless shelter” policies, which carry the penalty of a warm place to stay and several hot meals.
The people who oppose campus carry frequently use the excuses:
– A gun distracts from the learning environment. I find it hard to believe that me having a concealed weapon will distract from the learning environment more than being attacked simply because I am alone studying in the lab.
– College students are immature, irresponsible drunkards. I am 44 years old, a graduate student, and in less than a year’s time I will be writing prescriptions and making decisions about people’s lives and health. If I am too immature and drunk to carry a gun, how can I be a health provider?
– You could use pepper spray instead. First- pepper spray is also prohibited, and note that the assailant RAN several blocks AFTER being pepper sprayed by security. If that were a young lady using that pepper spray, and he felt like fighting, how much good would that spray do?

The biology of self control, part 2

This is a continuation of the post on the physiological origins of self control and criminals. For the first part, click here.

The next neurotransmitter that is important is Serotonin. Serotonin is not capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, so the brain must produce all that it needs. Serotonin is produced by converting an amino acid called tryptophan into Serotonin. (Serotonin is also used for other purposes in other parts of the body, but that is not within the scope of this post.)

Serotonin is the chemical that causes us to feel loved, safe, and comfortable. This is why meals high in tryptophan are called comfort foods. This is also how the drug Ecstasy (MDMA) works. That drug causes a massive release of Serotonin from your neurons. Long term use of MDMA actually causes a decrease in Serotonin, though, as the cells that produce it begin to “burn out.” Various other drugs that are centrally acting also work on Serotonin and its receptors, like SSRIs.

When we do what we know that we are supposed to do, the frontal lobe rewards us with a rush of Serotonin. This is the brain’s reward system for good behavior. The Midbrain rewards pleasurable behavior with Dopamine. The balance between the two is the way our behavior is controlled: Midbrain rewards us for pleasure seeking, the Frontal Lobe rewards us for controlling our bad behavior. Most people are fairly balanced between the two, and mostly seek out pleasurable but good behavior.

There are things that can upset this balance:
A mother who exposes her unborn child to alcohol can damage the frontal lobe, and giver birth to a child with impulsive and unsocial behavior. Remember hearing about how the prenatal exposure to alcohol affects the corpus callosum? That’s the membrane between the left brain and the right brain that passes information between the two hemispheres of the brain. The corpus callosum of kids with fetal alcohol syndrome is damaged, and in some cases it is absent. This is very similar to what happens when a “normal” person drinks alcohol. After a few drinks, alcohol shuts down the left side of the frontal lobe, which no longer functions the way it should and this suppresses the frontal lobe, causing the person to act on impulse, disregarding consequences, and seek more reward from the Midbrain. A person will act to do things, even  when they know that it is wrong and will cause them trouble in the end. With long term alcohol and drug use, this condition becomes a permanent dysfunction.

Since much of this is biochemical and not conscious thought, people with frontal lobes that are damaged by congenital defects or drug use have no way of stopping this behavior.

That brings us back to recognizing a person’s potential for becoming a killer. We can look for people who:
 – chronically use alcohol or drugs,
– have displayed a history of not producing enough Serotonin. They are easy to recognize, as they have problems controlling their impulsive behavior (in other words- criminal records). However, this only is a reliable indicator if the criminal KNEW that what he was doing was wrong. After all, the person must know it is the wrong thing to do, if the frontal lobe is to be expected to control the impulse.
– Identifying others who have problems with their impulse control center. This suggests that there may be a test that can be performed that will indicate a person’s proclivity for committing crimes, which may mean that there is a medical solution for some criminals.

You also can see why gun control has little effect. The criminal is a criminal because his brain doesn’t stop him from committing acts that he knows are wrong. He knows it is illegal to rob someone, but he doesn’t care. He knows as a convicted criminal that it is wrong for him to own a gun, but doesn’t care.

On the other side of that, a man convicted of an obscure felony like owning more than 5 sex toys is not a threat to public safety and is unlikely to commit a crime with a firearm, as his impulse control is most probably fully functional.

Killers, biology, and control

There are always people who think that keeping people from owning guns is the answer to preventing murder. These people say that anyone is capable of being a criminal, and therefore guns are too dangerous for anyone but cops and the military. Others say that there is no way to predict who will be a killer, but is this true? Why do people become criminals, addicts, or killers? The answer is in our brains.

The neurological system of human beings is controlled by chemicals called neurotransmitters. The brain manufactures more than 60 different neurotransmitters that are responsible for everything we do from breathing, to pupil contractions, and even our thoughts and emotions. For the purposes of emotion and this discussion, there are three that we are talking about: Dopamine, Serotonin, and Norepinephrine.

Everything that we do that brings us pleasure involves Dopamine. If it makes you happy, Dopamine is the chemical that is responsible. The nervous system uses dopamine as the reward for good behavior. Serotonin is the love and comfort chemical. This neurotransmitter gives us our feelings of belonging, self-confidense, and calm. Norepinephrine is responsible for the “4 F’s” (feeding, fleeing, fighting, and f*cking).

In the human brain, there are components that control our emotions and behaviors without our conscious control. Among these is the midbrain. A small area of the midbrain called the Substantia Nigra makes dopamine, and passes that reward through a structure called the nucleus accumbens, past the frontal lobe, and to the rest of the brain. Since the midbrain is out of our conscious control, there are no ethics or morals involved in this level of control, this is pure instinct. In this way, the midbrain causes us to do whatever brings us pleasure.

We can exhibit a certain amount of control by utilizing the frontal lobe of the brain to interdict some of these impulsive, hedonistic impulses. You see, the frontal lobe of the brain is where our sense of morals, self control,  and duty originate. In children and young adults (up to about age 25) this area of the brain is not yet fully developed, and this is why people in that age group do stupid and irresponsible things.

In addition, various genetic and environmental factors either damage or prevent the development of this part of the brain. Individuals that do not have a fully developed frontal lobe have little self-control, no sense of right and wrong, and no morals. In short, they are out of control criminals.

Part two of this post can be found here.

The gun question

As you know if you have been reading this blog, I am in school to earn my Masters Degree and become a Physician Assistant. We were recently in a class on how to conduct an exam, and were talking about the questions that we are required to ask a patient. One of the questions that they said we are required to ask is whether or not they own a gun, and whether or not that gun is kept in a secure location. Then we should use this as an opportunity to talk to them about the dangers of having a firearm in the home. I spoke up and said that I did not feel like that was a valid medical question, and the answer that I got was that this was about safety.

I then pointed out that we shouldn’t stop there. After all, if this is about safety, why not ask them if they are gay, and of so, lecture them on the dangers of homosexual activity? Of course, the reaction I got was how inappropriate that was. I pointed out that more people die each year from AIDS than are murdered by firearms.

I then asked if I would be penalized in any way for refusing to participate in a politically charged topic like this. They relented, and I will not be penalized in any way for refusing to ask that question.

Interesting conversation

I had a conversation in a bar last night that I found to be interesting. I was sitting in a local beer joint having some wings and IPA with another grad student when the subject of guns came up. He told me that although he is from Illinois, he routinely carries a handgun for protection. That is interesting, I say, because Illinois remains the only state in the USA that does not allow this, and you need a permit to even own a gun, and permits to carry guns are non-existent. He told me that the only way he would get caught is if he had to use that gun to defend his life, and in that case, he would worry about the ramifications then.

Now understand that this particular grad school is not for slackers or troublemakers. The school won’t even look at your application if your undergrad GPA is less than 3.3 and your criminal history is a blank slate. Not only that, without giving any of this guy’s details away, he is a very upstanding guy, and his resume would certainly not place him in the category of ‘troublemaker.”

Gun control has failed as a philosophy. Some folks just haven’t accepted that, yet.

A peek into police culture

I was recently required to go to a class on the incident management system. The class was comprised of about 60% police supervisors and 40% fire supervisors. The class gave me an opportunity for some insight into the way that cops (especially the supervisors) view the world.

The class presented the supervisors with a few scenarios, and challenged those supervisors to set up a command structure that would adequately manage the situation. Since this was a class attended mostly by cops and was being taught by cops, the scenarios and the conversations were mostly cop-centric. It was a learning experience, but perhaps not in the way that was intended.

The first scenario was that a child services worker was doing a well being check on a home, after receiving a tip that one of the children in the home was being sexually molested by the father. When she arrived at the home, she found that the father was home alone with 3 children, ages 9 through 14, and he was intoxicated. The social worker told the father that she was removing the children from the home, because the only adult was intoxicated. The father refused, an argument ensued, and the social worker was asked to leave. Social worker attempts to take the youngest child with her, and is shot in the stomach by the father. Socail worker staggers outside and 911 is called.

The cops said that this is an active shooter situation, and their primary objective is to enter the home as soon as they have three officers present, and “take out the bad guy.” I am betting that they were not talking about shooting the social worker.

After this first scenario, we took our first break. The topic of discussion during the break was how the “new NRA law” was stupid and creating problems for police. One of the cops said that they tried to work with the NRA, but that the “gun nuts” were being uncooperative and would not give an inch. Another used an example (paraphrasing, my memory isn’t perfect)
“There is this guy who has been “Baker Acted” several times, and has even fired shots at police officers. We were at his house, and he has guns. Now normally, I would just take the guns, and he would never see them again. Thanks to this new law, this guy keeps the guns. Now I am forced to risk leaving the guns there and getting sued when he shoots someone, or taking the guns, and getting sued by the NRA.”
Third cop says: “The odds of being sued by the NRA are low. I’m still going to take them.”

There are a number of false assumptions there, but it seems to me that if a person has shot at cops, wouldn’t he be convicted of at least one felony and thus be prohibited from firearm possession?
If he was found to be a danger to himself or others after being Baker Acted, wouldn’t a court have found him incompetent, and wouldn’t he then be prohibited from owning firearms?
Why does a cop think that he has the power to confiscate private property, simply because he thinks he is the “only one” that is trained and competent to handle firearms?

Head in the sand policy of Osceola County

Florida Law Enforcement agencies have long followed a policy of denying the existence of gangs in the state, even though it is at odds with the opinion of the Florida Attorney General’s office [pdf alert] Florida police agencies say gang members use any information released about the crimes they commit to glamorize their lifestyles and attract new members. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office generally follows that policy.

That policy, it seems, is failing.Hardly a day goes by when there is not a reported shooting in the Central Florida area, and many other violent crimes go unreported. Due to the long standing policy of ignoring gang related crimes, it is impossible to get an accurate picture of gang related crime in the area, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is growing.

The frequency of gang related graffiti is growing, as is the frequency of gang member sightings. The Outlaws Motorcycle gang has a clubhouse not far from where I live. A couple of friends of mine were recently riding their motorcycles and were stopped by five Outlaws, who told them that no one is allowed to ride motorcycles in the area as a part of any motorcycle riding club, unless that riding club paid dues to the Outlaws. They then demanded that my friends remove the leather jackets, and pay a fine of $50 cash on the spot. Outnumbered 5-2 by armed gang members, they paid.

The Latin Kings have staked out Poinciana as their territory, as well as parts of Kissimmee. The Bloods own other parts of Kissimmee. Saint Cloud has problems with white gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood. Orlando has similar gang and violent crime problems.

Your odds of being a victim of a violent crime in Osceola County are 1 in 100. In Orange County, the odds double to 1 in 50.Obviously, there are things you can do to reduce those odds. Don’t go into bad neighborhoods like Pine Hills (aka Crime Hills), Paramore, McLaren Circle, Waterway Village, and other notoriously unsafe areas. Don’t be a gang member, sell drugs, or engage in other highly risky behavior.

It is more likely that you will be a victim of a violent crime than involved in a car crash or a house fire with a fatality.You don’t hesitate to wear a seat belt, or own smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and other safety devices, yet the odds favor your using a firearm to defend your life more often than any of those other items.

Just call 911

Just call 911. That is the advice that people give when they tell you that only cops and the military should own guns. Tell that to the woman in this trial.

She tried to call 911, but he tore the phone from her hands and smashed it. He then tore off her pants and raped her. After he was done violating the woman, he robbed her and forced her to go for a ride. Asked what she had thought during the assault and its aftermath, the woman told transfixed jurors, “I kept thinking, ‘I don’t want to die. I don’t want to be one of those people who just disappears and their family can never find.'”

The rapist had been arrested 18 previous times in Lake County, including once for sexual battery at age 14, and had only been released from a 14 month stay in prison 5 days before he commited this crime.

A firearm is the only weapon that places a smaller woman on an equal footing with a larger, stronger male opponent. If this woman would have had one, perhaps she would have been able to protect herself. Or do you feel that a rapist’s life is too important? When this man eventually gets out, will he kill someone?

Decision point, part two

Margret Puig Durinick was being attacked by her husband, Christopher Edward Durinick. She ran to her neighbor’s house, and pounded on the front door of the home of neighbor Leo English, and begged for help. That was when the husband shot his wife once from less than 100 feet away. She collapsed in English’s front doorway. English drew his revolved and returned fire, striking the man in the abdomen (not a bad shot for a handgun- 100 feet, at night). The wounded husband returned home, where he killed himself.

Police stated that English’s actions are not what they recommend people do when faced with a dangerous situation, but that he is not being investigated. Morons. A man murders a woman in front of you, and you are now faced with a murderer who is armed with a rifle. He is less than 100 feet away, and has just killed someone in front of you. As a witness, odds are high that you are next. What do the police recommend that you do? I’m sorry, but that has got to be the stupidest thing I have ever heard anyone say.


There are two things I noticed today, and both of them are related:   


Today, I was in Saint Cloud and decided to stop by the Orlando Utilities Commission office that is there, in order to pay my bill. The office is inside City Hall. Just inside the door of the OUC office is a security guard who is armed with a Glock handgun. (I am assuming a 9mm, since that and .38Spl are the only calibers that armed guards can carry under state law.)

Just behind the security guard, there is a sign on the wall that reads “No weapons, firearms, or knives with a blade greater than 3.5 inches are permitted inside.” (or words to that effect- I will get pictures next time, if possible)

According to the OUC website:

OUC-The Reliable One is a municipal utility owned by the citizens of Orlando. It provides electricity and water services to customers in Orlando, St. Cloud, and parts of Orange and Osceola counties.


This story was running on the local cable news channel:

Anyone who visits the Osceola County Administration building will now have to go through a metal detector. Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones said it’s in response to both local tensions and recent national incidents.

 I am not sure if the entire building requires entry, or just the Commission chambers, as the actual press release implies that the magnetometers will only be used for commission meetings.

Why these two stories are important:

The state legislature passed 790.33 some years ago, which states:

Except as expressly provided by general law, the Legislature hereby declares that it is occupying the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition, including the purchase, sale, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, and transportation thereof, to the exclusion of all existing and future county, city, town, or municipal ordinances or regulations relating thereto. Any such existing ordinances are hereby declared null and void. (emphasis added)

The law goes on to say:

It is the intent of this section to provide uniform firearms laws in the state; to declare all ordinances and regulations null and void which have been enacted by any jurisdictions other than state and federal, which regulate firearms, ammunition, or components thereof; to prohibit the enactment of any future ordinances or regulations relating to firearms, ammunition, or components thereof unless specifically authorized by this section or general law; and to require local jurisdictions to enforce state firearms laws. (emphasis added)

 So, a county that prohibits firearm possession in a county administration building cannot prohibit CCW holders from possession weapons, unless that building is a police station, jail, a meeting of the legislative body, or a school administrative building. The OUC office in City hall, and the general administrative offices of Osceola county do not fit any of those restrictions, therefore the sign and the magnetometers are in violation of state law.

It seems like government offices state wide are beginning to react to the school board shooting in Bay County and to the shooting in Arizona by violating the law themselves. We need to watch this, and do what we can to bring them into compliance with the law.