published Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Pam’s Points: Why guns and kids don’t mix, and insurance sticker shock

  • photo
    In this Aug. 25, 2014, image made from video provided by the Mohave County Sheriff Department, firing-range instructor Charles Vacca, left, shows a 9-year old girl how to use an Uzi. Vacca, 39, was standing next to the girl at the Last Stop range in Arizona, south of Las Vegas, when the girl squeezed the trigger, causing the Uzi to recoil upward and shoot Vacca in the head.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Gunplay isn’t play

Who thinks it is wise to give your 9-year-old Uzi-shooting lessons? Even just a one-day vacation lark?

It isn’t. It wasn’t. It never will be.

The New Jersey girl in pink shorts and a braided ponytail was one year older than the minimum age allowed to shoot at the Mojave Desert tourist company and shooting range, Bullets and Burgers. But she couldn’t control the recoiling Uzi submachine gun when it began firing a barrage of ammunition. The gun — with slugs flying out at a rate of 600 rounds per minute — rose leftward and over her head until bullets struck the instructor behind her.

The shooting range that connects Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon is popular with tourists. It advertises four-hour packages in which tourists can be picked up at their hotels, driven to the property and given “the opportunity to fire a wide range of fully automatic machine guns and specialty weapons” including AK-47s and grenade launchers. “Lunch is served, and guests can have videos taken of their shooting experience,” according to the website.

The New York Times story about the tragedy notes that news of the incident spread widely on the Internet and prompted comments from many who, like me, question why in the world parents would allow such a young child to handle such a weapon.

“Some commentators, particularly from abroad, have pointed to the episode as an unfortunate reflection of America’s gun culture,” the Times wrote. “Piers Morgan, the British journalist who used to host an evening news show on CNN, wrote on Twitter: ‘It’s illegal to eat a Kinder Surprise chocolate egg in America, on health grounds. It’s fine for 9yr olds to use Uzi submachine guns.’ ”

Another commenter on another website wrote: “What in the name of Jesus is wrong with us, Americans? Automatic weapons as toys? And now a man is dead, for no reason, and a nine-year-old girl is scarred for life.”

I couldn’t and can’t say it better than that. But there is one more thing. I read that an Uzi is a “compact, powerful weapon … known for its ease of handling and simple design” and that it has been “featured prominently in popular movies and video games.” I guess that’s America’s gun and parenting cultures at work in tandem.

No charges were filed. Chief Deputy Mohave County Attorney Jace Zack told CNN: “We have considered the parents, but if anyone was culpable it would be the instructor for putting a deadly weapon in her hands.”

Teachers and insurance

Teachers and workers with the Hamilton County Department of Education got a health care cost wake-up call Thursday when the Board of Education voted to eliminate working spouses from the department’s health care plan.

The vote means some of the 1,700 working wives and husbands of teachers will soon be signing up on the health plans offered by their own employers, rather than using the caddy-model plan school workers have long held. School board members had expected to save $5 million by requiring an extra $100 from the school workers who also covered their spouses, but in a surprise move Thursday, the board voted instead to scrap coverage for those spouses altogether. What’s unclear is how much more savings this move will produce.

There’s lots of health care insurance sticker shock going around this year as insurers jockey to make up the outrageous profit they used to make on junk policies and dropping sick people from their plans before the Affordable Care Act made those practices illegal. Similarly, hospitals and doctors are trying to make up lost dollars after states like Tennessee left federal money on the table by not expanding Medicaid. Our state GOP lawmakers’ use of partisan-motivated revenge helped push up the cost of health care for the rest of us.

At the school board meeting — where teachers weren’t allowed to address the board — mouthy board member Rhonda Thurman couldn’t resist the urge to criticize both the ACA and teachers. Teachers’ unions were part of the problem for supporting the ACA, she said.

It’s really too bad that the health insurance groups didn’t save the $102.4 million that America’s Health Insurance Plans (the largest health care lobbying group in the country) spent in 2009 and early 2010 against the ACA. A million here, a million there. Now they have to get that money back, too, somehow. That somehow is us.

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conservative said...

So Ms. Sohn like other Liberals and Demoncrats gets the ACA passed which adds coverage for millions and expanded coverage such as free birth control for millions and then she whines that costs go up!

Her people passed the ACA with insurance companies, which she loathes, running the show and now she wants to whine when she got what she wanted.

This is how children think and behave.

August 30, 2014 at 9:16 a.m.
conservative said...

One of many questions I have for Ms. Sohn and other like minded Liberals is why are they not criticizing Owebama and the Demoncrats for giving the insurance companies, which they loathe, so much power in the ACA?

August 30, 2014 at 10:22 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

This incident at the shooting range is indicative of just how over-the-top insane our gun culture in this country is. In the first place, automatic machine guns (and now grenade launchers?!) should never have been allowed into the public domain. These are weapons of war and have no place whatsoever in the hands of anyone other than the military or perhaps SWAT team members. But now it is too late to even think about outlawing them because the gun nuts whine and holler about how the second amendment supposedly gives them the "right" to own weapons of war such as these. So many wannabe Rambos and backwoods militia crazies have made them part of their everyday life and to even suggest taking them away would be grounds for revolution as far as they are concerned.

But no matter what side of the fence one stands on guns and gun rights, who in his right mind thinks that a 9 yr.-old girl is capable of handling such an unwieldy, dangerous weapon, no matter how responsible or mature that 9 yr.-old might be for her age? The recoil factor alone is enough to make any halfway sensible person realize that the frame of a 9 yr.-old is not big enough or strong enough to withstand it. The stupid (yes, stupid) parents should be charged with negligence and the firing range ought to be forced to change its asinine policy of even allowing children on to the range, let alone allowing them to fire such dangerous weapons.

What does it say about this country that we have federal laws banning toys that pose the slightest threat or possibility of threat from the marketplace, but it's perfectly legal to put an Uzi machine gun into the hands of a 9 yr.-old?

August 30, 2014 at 12:23 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

"One of many questions I have for Ms. Sohn and other like minded Liberals is why are they not criticizing Owebama and the Demoncrats for giving the insurance companies, which they loathe, so much power in the ACA." - conservative

If you had been paying attention, you would know that that is exactly what many liberals have complained about. It has been the biggest complaint of most libs - that Obama took single payer off the table even before the bill made it to Congress for a vote. The insurance companies still have way too much power and control and that is precisely why we are having so many problems with Obamacare and health insurance in general now.

It was certainly a step in the right direction, especially considering the fact that Republicans had NO IDEAS or PLANS of their own (and they still don't), but Medicare-for-all is the only way to go, so that everybody has access to good, comprehensive health care at an affordable price. Health insurance is not a luxury and should not be treated as a commodity. At some point in our lives it becomes an absolute necessity, and one should not have to be rich enough to afford it to be able to get it. As long as companies are in the business of making a profit from it we are going to see steady increases in premiums and rates that are too expensive for many Americans.

August 30, 2014 at 12:39 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Oh wait...I forgot that Republicans and conservatives actually do have an idea for a health plan that would take care of the millions of uninsured Americans: It's called LET THEM DIE.

August 30, 2014 at 1:13 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

I'm sure the NRA will say the death of the instructor was worth it in the defense of the liberty to bear arms. I'm waiting for anyone to offer a good reason an UZI is a legal weapon to carry around or allow children to handle.

rickaroo hit the nail on the head as far as old girl connie is concerned, let them eat cake or die.

August 30, 2014 at 2:04 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

All the Reds are over at Burger King.

August 30, 2014 at 10:37 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

The instructor was fatally second amended.

September 1, 2014 at 9:13 p.m.
timbo said...

What the instructor did was stupid, what the girls parents did in letting her shoot that weapon in the first place was stupid, and letting a 9 year old shoot at all was stupid.

When training my son to carry a gun, he went hunting with me for 5 years carrying an unloaded gun before I let him shoot at 13 years old.

Stupidity is not rare in any endeavor. Pam Sohn and the liberals who write on this site prove that every day. The problem is that this stupid act was no more stupid than DUI's, falling off a ladder, texting while driving, or any other damn thing that can kill you. The only good thing about this stupid thing was that the people involved, the instructor, the girl, and the families were the only ones affected. At least they didn't kill an innocent.

Using this rare occurrence of this type of gun stupidity to push an anti-gun agenda is par for the course for you dishonest liberals.

September 2, 2014 at 9:22 a.m.
timbo said...

rickarroo....since you think it is a step in the right direction, you and the teachers should volunteer to go on Obamacare. That would show your support for your messiah and make an example for the rest of us.

Of course, like unions, teachers, large corporations, and others that got a pass, you want your cake and to hell with everyone else.

Why Obamacare was "misdesigned" was to make employers and individuals so mad that they would turn to single payer. If that is what you libs wanted, why didn't you ask for it all along? I know, you knew it would never pass until everyone was pissed off.

When the dems argued that "30 million were uninsured," the Republicans should have said, ok, let's just put them on medicaid. That would have cost just a few billion and problem solved.

Obamacare was designed poorly to usher in single payer. That would be a much bigger disaster.

September 2, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Re: timbo's first comment:

When owners of firing ranges are stupid enough to allow children to handle and fire automatic weapons, and when instructors are stupid enough to acquiesce to the stupid policies of stupid firing range owners, and when parents are stupid enough to allow their children to handle and fire automatic weapons, and when we live in a country stupid enough to even allow weapons of war in the hands of the public when they have no business being made available on the open market in the first place...then, hell yes, we "dishonest" liberals are going to use incidents such as this to push our "agenda" of, at the very least, getting certain restrictions placed on these infernal weapons of war.

I am not anti-gun, I am just anti-weapons-of-war in the hands of anybody other than soldiers or SWAT team members. And my understanding is that this particular firing range even had grenade launchers for the "sporting" pleasure of its customers. GRENADE LAUNCHERS?! WTF??

I am not so naïve to think that there is any possibility of forcing a recall on such weapons of war and making them illegal. They have been circulating openly in the public domain for so long that all the militia crazies and wannabe Rambos and hunters who think they NEED such weapons to kill their prey would scream bloody murder and rise up in revolt at the mere mention of a possible recall. But at the very least we can and should have much tighter restrictions placed on such weapons and force idiotic gun range owners to change their policies and not allow children to have access to them.

BTW...I don't see how you can even remotely compare this incident to falling off a ladder. This incident happened on account of the overwhelming stupidity of three people: the instructor, the firing range owner, and the parents. While individual stupidity might indeed be a factor in some ladder accidents, most of them happen from a misstep or a faulty ladder or haphazard placement of a ladder. There is no comparison. Timbo, you constantly come up with cockamamie comments that boggles the mind.

September 2, 2014 at 1:56 p.m.
timbo said...

Rickaroo...I don't need those weapons for hunting, they are the wrong tool. I do need them in my gun safe in case the government gets out of hand. Really..that tired old "do you need a grenade launcher" thing. Be more creative next time.

Before you say that we couldn't do anything against the army with tanks, etc. just look at popular uprisings and how they are armed in the beginning. Believe me 30 million guns is a huge deterrent.

You said, "While individual stupidity might indeed be a factor in some ladder accidents, most of them happen from a misstep or a faulty ladder or haphazard placement of a ladder." Everything you just said as a problem was because of stupidity.

As far as my comparison, 99% of accidents are because of stupidity. Falling off a ladder is no exception. Usually it is placed wrong or not sufficiently anchored (stupidity). It just doesn't fit your preconceived concept of what is dangerous. According to Prezi.com, 30,000 people are injured and 6000 people die each year falling off ladders. Seems a little steep to me but this is all I could find quickly..

For example, "In 2009, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 67% of all homicides in the U.S. were conducted using a firearm.[5] According to the FBI, in 2012, there were 8,855 total firearm-related homicides in the US, with 6,371 of those attributed to handguns.[6] 61% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides."

That means that out of the 8,855 total firearm deaths 39% or 3,453 were not suicides. That is about 3,000 less deaths than...you guessed it...falling off a ladder.

Now, that means we should outlaw ladders because stupid people get up on them and kill themselves by making an error in judgement. According to statistics, we should outlaw ladders and make everyone rent a crane.

An even better comparison is alcohol related deaths. There is an average of 88,000 deaths per year associated with drinking alcohol. That is mind boggling. If you used your "weapons of war" analogy and applied it to alcohol, we would have a rehash of the 20's. Making things illegal and punishing people who use something responsibly for the transgressions of others is wrong, no matter the subject.

It is you that is illogical and completely unable to use any powers of abstract thought. You don't outlaw something because a small number of people misuse it and die. Cockamamie....well that makes me a lot more right about things than say a ...liberal. You guys are all spin, emotion, and BS.

September 2, 2014 at 3:09 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Re: timbo's second comment:

Sir, I do not need to volunteer for Obamacare. I already have it. And you know what? I am happy to report that I have had great success with it!

A little bit about my personal history:

From 1999 through 2009 I had a very good job as a district manager of a merchandising company. I had a company car, expense account, and great benefits, which included an excellent comprehensive health plan. I was good at my job, enjoyed it, and had planned to work until I was at least 68 and then retire (I'm 64 now). But as a direct result of the Recession that hit in '08 the company folded. I had already survived 3 major downsizings and layoffs but the company had stretched itself as thin as it possibly could and it was forced to shut down.

I collected unemployment for a year and in the meantime I looked for comparable work or any work that paid a decent wage, taking a proactive stance and sending out resume after resume after resume. But with my age working against me, and the job market being as depleted as it was, there simply were no decent paying jobs to be had. Yes, I could have taken a job at some fast food joint or at Walmart, but I wouldn't have even made enough to make my house payment and buy groceries. I was drawing $275/wk. from unemployment and while it was far less than what I was accustomed to making, it at least covered my basic necessities (I have always maintained an excellent credit rating and I had very little credit card debt). I had substantial savings in my 401k and in my savings account but after my unemployment ran out I was forced to start dipping into them.

September 2, 2014 at 3:19 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

continued...

I should also mention that I had developed a limp and recurring pain in my hips and my legs, but being without health insurance I could not afford to go to a doctor to have it checked. It continued to get worse, to the point that I was no longer able to work a full-time job anyway, or at least one that required my being on my feet for long periods. I should also add that my 89 yr.-old mother, who lived alone in Monteagle (I was living in Chattanooga at the time), was in poor health and needed someone to look after her. Being the only family member left to take care of her (my dad and my sister had died a few years earlier), and loving her enough to want to take care of her anyway, I moved in with her. She was in no shape to withstand a major move, so I thought it best to make the move myself. I cared for her for 2 years, until she died, 2 1/2 years ago.

My legs and hips had gotten worse and I was barely able to walk but I managed to find a part-time job while also caring for my mother. At this point my unemployment had run out and I had used up most of my savings. My mom was not rich, living entirely off her SS, but she had her own modest place, fully paid-for, on 4 acres of land out in the country, and she had no outstanding debts other than her living expenses.

After my mom died, my legs and hips had deteriorated to the point that I needed a cane to walk, but I still managed to work my part-job. It was impossible for me to work full-time so I was forced to start drawing SS at 62. I was making ends meet but I certainly did not make enough to be able to afford health insurance, as a decent policy would have cost me well over $500/month. I was in good health otherwise so I was trying to hold out until I would be eligible for Medicare, even though my hips were constantly getting worse and I knew that soon I would most likely not be able to walk at all.

When Obamacare passed I didn't know if it would be something practical and affordable for me or not. I looked into it but didn't really entertain high hopes that it would be of any use to me. I was extremely and pleasantly surprised to discover that I could get a policy that was affordable AND comprehensive. I then went to an orthopedic surgeon in Winchester who told me that I had osteo-arthritis of both hips and needed total hip replacement. So far, I have had one hip successfully operated on, and I am due to have the other operation performed in mid-October. I can't wait to be able to walk normally again, and completely free of pain.

September 2, 2014 at 3:21 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

continued...

You self-absorbed haters of Obamacare can whine all you want to about how bad it is for you now that uninsured people like me can finally get access to affordable health insurance. But you know what? You can go f#ck yourselves. Don't you dare tell me that laziness or stupidity on my part is what put me in my circumstances and therefore I don't deserve to get the same decent health care as you who can afford it. I have worked hard all my life and lived well within my means. Hell yes, Obamacare IS a step in the right direction, but it is only a step. We still need universal health care coverage, something like Medicare-for-all. Health insurance has NO BUSINESS WHATSOEVER being in the hands of private, for-profit companies. Health insurance, at some point in everyone's life, becomes a necessity, and as such it should not be sold for profit on the open market, like a car or a pair of shoes.

As for this comment from you: "Why Obamacare was 'misdesigned' was to make employers and individuals so mad that they would turn to single payer. If that is what you libs wanted, why didn't you ask for it all along? I know, you knew it would never pass until everyone was pissed off."

If you had been paying attention you would know that most libs had indeed been asking for it all along, and many of us were pissed off that Obama took it off the table before it even went up for a vote. But then, paying attention to what we libs are actually saying is not your strong suit, is it, timbo? You just like to take every opportunity to mouth your usual hate-filled rhetoric against libs and the idea of liberalism in general.

September 2, 2014 at 3:22 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Timbo, I have wasted too much time with you. The asininity of your comments does not deserve the dignity of any further replies.

September 2, 2014 at 3:33 p.m.
timbo said...

Rickarroo...I am sorry to hear that. It is tough out there.

I can only say that your situation, as bad as it is, doesn't justify putting the system upside down. I suggested in my previous post that we should have just made Medicaid available to the people without insurance instead of putting everyone at risk.

These posts are anonymous (not in my case..Tim Price) and people get carried away. Your job situation is a hard one because I had to lay off 2 people this year because of extra costs, including an insurance increase that I was told, was due to Obamacare's pre-existing condition cost.

In my case I decided to go into business after I was laid off for being in middle management. I took a job with a 50% cut in pay to learn how to sell and 2 years later I went into business in 1994 with only $20,000 and with a mortgage and two small children. I just decided that I wasn't going to have my fate in the hands of someone else. I suffered for years making less than I could have made but at least I never got laid off again. As you know, that feeling is about as bad as it gets.

Although it is tough, going to the political left will not fix anything. Going to far to the corporate right is just as bad. Increasing taxes and regulation push people like Burger King out of the country. They also de-incentivise people like me because I don't like anyone, especially the government, telling me what to do.

There is no good solution here, we just have to keep plugging along.

September 2, 2014 at 3:41 p.m.
timbo said...

Rickarroo...Self absorbed? I pay for my employees insurance and I do not have to do that. It is not some anonymous government entity it is me. What if I came in tomorrow and just told everyone to fend for themselves. That wouldn't be right and I feel a responsibility to make sure they don't end up in your situation.

This is the problem..you want respect and understanding for your problem but you have neither for small businessmen who provide 80% of the jobs in this country and can't absorb any more cost.

There has to be a safety net but we all should not have to be in it if we don't want to do it. Also, I have a responsibility to my family and my employees to take care of them. I don't have that same responsibility to anyone else. If I help anyone else, it is my choice.

I am not sure how we should take care of problems like yours. You are right, you need access to medical care but forcing me in the same boat is not the way. There has to be a way that your need is addressed without forcing me to get in an insurance situation that I don't want. I will never agree to universal health care. It just means universal mediocrity.

Again, everyone on this site get's carried away a little...

September 2, 2014 at 3:56 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Okay, I lied, I guess. One last response from me.

You say that nothing "justifies putting the system upside down." But when over 40 million Americans (pre-ACA) cannot afford or do not qualify for health insurance, and tens of millions more Americans have thoroughly inadequate health plans on account of not being able to afford comprehensive coverage, then something is rotten about the system and needs not only putting upside down but revamping entirely.

People who are rich enough to be able to afford good health insurance or who are fortunate enough to be able to get it through their place of employment, like to remark how wonderful our health care system is, without having an ounce of awareness or understanding of what uninsured people are having to endure. We might have the most technologically advanced medical care in the world, but something is draconian and less than advanced about the way we go about providing it for the people.

The overall health of ALL Americans is of vital importance to the wellbeing of this nation, and as such it should not be treated as a commodity and sold on the open market, unless it is tightly regulated. Medicare has worked well for decades and has been a much more cost effective way to provide health care. The problems Medicare is experiencing now are not due to the Medicare system itself but are due to the problems created by our overall health care industry in general, with its escalating costs (with or without Obamacare) and its inadequate yet extremely expensive way we go about providing it.

You lib/socialist haters like to say that the government cannot do anything right and that private business always is more efficient, but that is not true at all. The Post Office, Social Security, and Medicare have worked well for decades and have been cost efficient (until only recently). Many private businesses have not lasted as long or have been as successful as those government programs, not necessarily in terms of profit but in terms of achieving what they are supposed to achieve. Not everything in life is supposed to be made a profit from, contrary to what you die-hard capitalist worshiping blowhards like to think.

You say that "going to the political left won't fix anything," but it's funny how this nation was never more productive and prosperous, with more people able to achieve the American Dream, than the 3-decade period following WW2, when FDR's liberal policies were in affect. Since Reagan came on the scene, with his massive tax cuts, rampant deregulation, and his anti-government ideology, we have been in a constant downward spiral, with the few brief periods of economic growth we have experienced benefiting only the rich, with no "trickle-down" making its way to the middle class and the poor.

September 2, 2014 at 4:36 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

continued...

I have nothing but respect for small business owners, at least for those with a social conscience and who truly treat their employees with respect and realize how important they are to their business. If you are the conscientious business owner you say you are, then I applaud you. We need more like you. But the problem is that many, if not most, business owners, are not so conscientious. In those cases we can't just leave it up to the "invisible hand" of the free market to make them do the right thing. Too many workers languish for too long at the hands of unscrupulous, stingy business owners with no social conscience, and it is not enough to say that those employees can just go look for another job, especially when there are so few decent paying jobs out there and there are too many employers who do not do the right thing.

It is not right for the government to take too heavy a hand in the way businesses are run, but there need to be minimal standards in place regarding things like a minimum livable wage, worker safety precautions, and safeguards against environmental degradation. I, like most liberals, do not call for a Marxist state or even all-out socialism, but rather a balance between a free market and socialistic policies that take into consideration the common good. And like or not, if you live in a civilized society, such as this society purports to be, there IS a common good that needs to be taken into account.]]

I do not have a visceral hatred for all things conservative or for free market principles. I acknowledge that much good has come from the free market and that conservatism has a legitimate time and place in the scheme of things. I happen to believe in a healthy balance between liberalism and conservatism. You, on the other hand, and most conservatives today, seem to have a knee-jerk, irrational hatred of all things liberal, going so for as to call liberalism a "disease" or a "mental illness." Where does that come from?? The Republican Party even used to embrace certain facets of liberalism. I really don't get what has brought about this impassioned hatred and repulsion for any and all forms of liberalism among you conservatives today.

Now, I have wasted more time on this site than I should have. I have better things to do. Rickaroo is leaving the building.

September 2, 2014 at 4:40 p.m.
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