You and I avoid visiting the doctor by eating well. Doctors like Lee Silverman carry concealed in order to care for us when we do need them.
Doctors and medical professionals should be allowed to carry concealed. Last week, a psychiatrist named Dr. Lee Silverman technically broke the letter of the law by carrying concealed at work. He courageously saved innocent lives by pulling his trigger on a mad gunman before anyone else scarcely had time to dial 911.
On July 24, a 49-year-old patient of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital smuggled a loaded firearm into the Darby, Pennsylvania medical complex. Richard Plotts pulled out his gun during his appointment with his caseworker and psychiatrist and began firing.
Plotts’ caseworker 53-year-old Barbara Hunt suffered several bullet wounds to her head and died almost immediately. Dr. Silverman reached for his own firearm and fired at Plotts from behind his desk. After an exchange of fire, another doctor and a caseworker helped Dr. Silverman pin Plotts to the ground. Dr. Silverman’s temple and thumb were both grazed by bullets. Plotts was in stable condition after receiving surgery to treat his wounds.
Plotts may have subliminally tipped Dr. Silverman off to his violent outburst by complaining about Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital’s ban on guns during a previous appointment. A conscientious gun owner, Dr. Silverman was ready when Plotts returned.
Local police said that prior to Plotts’ shooting rampage he had been committed to a mental health facility on three separate occasions. Plotts also had a turbulent criminal record that included drug and assault charges and a minimum of four prior gun arrests.
Thankfully, Dr. Silverman’s bravery and quick-thinking were immediately applauded by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan: “I believe that if the doctor did not have a firearm, [and] the doctor did not utilize the firearm, he’d be dead today, and I believe that other people in that facility would also be dead.” Whelan also told the press: “We believe the doctor was acting in self-defense.”
This tragic case offers further proof that gun free zones fail to stop violent criminals who suffer from mental illness. With the exception of law enforcement officers, guns are banned at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. Both Dr. Silverman and Mercy Health System’s spokeswoman were initially unwilling to discuss the doctor’s decision to violate the hospital’s anti-gun policy and carry at work.
A similar case
About one year ago, on July 3, 2013, a Kansas-area elementary school gym teacher named Daniel Nagel was fired and threatened with a year of imprisonment for taking the same risk that Dr. Silverman took at work.
I interviewed Nagel’s family shortly after the incident. Nagel took the risk of carrying concealed because he was proficient in the use of firearms; because the school’s entrances were unguarded and highly permeable; and because the recent Newtown shooting gave him a heightened level of concern for his students’ safety. Like Dr. Silverman, Nagel was willing to take a bullet for those under his care.
Unfortunately, one day, a fellow gym teacher (and a friend of many years who once told Nagel: “We should be allowed to carry in class; if you decide to carry in class, I’ve got your back!”) thought she saw the shadow of a firearm under Nagel’s clothing. For no apparent reason, she panicked and rushed into the principal’s office declaring that she was “terrified” because Nagel had a firearm.
Despite community outrage from parents and a petition signed by thousands of Americans, the school decided to end Nagel’s teaching contract.
Hopefully Mercy Health System will utilize more common sense and keep Dr. Silverman on staff. After all, Dr. Silverman proved that a firearm (within reach) a day keeps mentally ill gunmen at bay.