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Pediatricians to lobby Congress for gun control laws

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Dr. Ben Hoffman will never forget the three-year-old who came into the emergency room with a gunshot wound.

“The child had shot himself in the face. It was obvious that was going to be a deadly injury,” Hoffman recalled.

 Members of the American Psychological Association at the “March For Our Lives” gun violence rally held in Washington, D.C. on March 24, 2018. Physician and other health provider groups say gun violence and gun control are matters of public health. Maggie Fox / NBC News

“We were trying to resuscitate him. We were trying to see if we could get anything back.”

But the devastation that a gun can wreak on the tiny head of a toddler is too much. The child died.

“Those are the kinds of things you can’t forget. It haunts me to this day,” said Hoffman, who is now chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.

“I remember the parents in tears. I remember being in tears.”

Hoffman and 350 colleagues will bring this and other stories to Congress Tuesday as part of a day spent lobbying in favor of gun legislation.

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They’re supporting a proposed assault weapons ban sponsored by senate Democrats and a bipartisan Senate bill that would restrict the sale of semiautomatic weapons to people 21 and older.

The pediatrics group has been outspoken on the issue of gun violence for years, but Hoffman said this year may offer a special opportunity to get federal legislation.

“This is a unique time,” Hoffman said.

“The events of the last several months, most notably the shooting at Parkland, has helped elevate the issue and has helped spark conversations.”

“Pediatricians will have three main messages for their federal legislators,” the AAP said. Their requests:

  • Provide $50 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for public health research into firearm safety and injury prevention;
  • Support a minimum purchase age of 21 for semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; and
  • Support a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons.

“This is about protecting children from the impact of gun-related injuries,” said Hoffman, who practices at Oregon Health and Science University​.

The AAP says pediatricians should be seen as honest brokers in the debate over gun violence.

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“We can all agree that children should never be injured by a gun. As a pediatrician, what I care about more than anything else is making sure that kids are safe and healthy,” Hoffman said.

The Academy urges pediatricians to ask about guns in the home.

“Ask about the presence of firearms in the home, and counsel parents who do keep guns to store them unloaded in a locked case, with the ammunition locked separately,” it advises its members.

“While the safest home for children is one without a gun, safe storage practices can significantly reduce the risk of gun injury or death.”

The National Rifle Association and supporters have fought back against these advisories, sponsoring legislation to stop pediatricians from asking parents about guns in the home — something that really puzzles doctors who routinely ask about other safety issues, such as using car seats and wearing helmets while riding bikes.

“We can all agree that children should never be injured by a gun.”

“We can all agree that children should never be injured by a gun.”

A federal judge struck down Florida’s 2011 law that forbade doctors to ask about guns in the home, but the NRA has promoted similar legislation in a dozen other states, according to Everytown, a group that advocates against firearms violence.

The NRA also opposes preventing teens from buying semi-automatic weapons. “Legislative proposals to prevent law-abiding adults aged 18-20 years old from acquiring semi-automatic rifles would deny them access to the most modern and effective rifles for self-defense, thus depriving them of their constitutional rights,” it says.

Hoffman said lawmakers should sponsor research into the best ways to prevent gun violence and gun accidents and then act on what the research shows — whether that means limits on gun ownership, or something else. “We are in a country where kids and guns are going to coexist,” Hoffman said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been restricted from performing or paying for gun violence research by federal legislation called the Dickey Amendment, which has language that CDC scientists interpret as meaning they had better stay away from the subject.

Hoffman says that’s a mistake. “We need to acknowledge that it is a public health problem,” he said.

“The amazing scientists at the CDC are looking for the best available evidence,” he added. “Their mission is to protect Americans from threats to their health.”

Hoffman noted that an average of 74 children and teenagers under the age of 21 are killed or severely injured by guns.

“If there were 74 kids critically ill and dying from flu every single day, we would spring to action,” he said. The CDC has reports of 142 children who have died from influenza since October, or about 20 a month on average.

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The three-year-old whose death still haunts Hoffman was killed by a gun kept in a parent’s bedside table. Many advocates say keeping kids away from guns is a matter of discipline and responsibility, but Hoffman said that’s a fallacy.

“You need to think about how kids are different from adults. Kids are inherently curious and impulsive,” he said.

Hoffman said he does not necessarily support keeping guns out of the home. “With rights come responsibilities,” he said. “When I think back to the toddler who died — if that gun had been stored in a locked gun safe, that child would have been safe.”

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Barnier shamed after EU diplomat takes a bitter final swipe at UK – 'What a joke!'

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MICHEL BARNIER received a bitter backlash after the leading Brussels diplomat predicted that Brexit chaos will dominate the UK “for years to come”.

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Trump shuns ‘ex-presidents club’ — and the feeling is mutual

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WASHINGTON — It’s a club Donald Trump was never really interested in joining and certainly not so soon: the cadre of former commanders in chief who revere the presidency enough to put aside often bitter political differences and even join together in common cause.

Members of the ex-presidents club pose together for pictures. They smile and pat each other on the back while milling around historic events, or sit somberly side by side at VIP funerals. They take on special projects together. They rarely criticize one another and tend to offer even fewer harsh words about their White House successors.

Like so many other presidential traditions, however, this is one Trump seems likely to flout. Now that he’s left office, it’s hard to see him embracing the stately, exclusive club of living former presidents.

“He kind of laughed at the very notion that he would be accepted in the presidents club,” said Kate Andersen Brower, who interviewed Trump in 2019 for her book “Team of Five: The Presidents’ Club in the Age of Trump.” “He was like, ‘I don’t think I’ll be accepted.’”

It’s equally clear that the club’s other members don’t much want him — at least for now.

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton recorded a three-minute video from Arlington National Cemetery after President Joe Biden’s inauguration this week, praising peaceful presidential succession as a core of American democracy. The segment included no mention of Trump by name, but stood as a stark rebuke of his behavior since losing November’s election.

“I think the fact that the three of us are standing here, talking about a peaceful transfer of power, speaks to the institutional integrity of our country,” Bush said. Obama called inaugurations “a reminder that we can have fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other’s common humanity, and that, as Americans, we have more in common than what separates us.”

Trump spent months making baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him through fraud and eventually helped incite a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He left the White House without attending Biden’s swearing-in, the first president to skip his successor’s inauguration in 152 years.

Obama, Bush and Clinton recorded their video after accompanying Biden to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider following the inauguration. They also taped a video urging Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Only 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, who has limited his public events because of the pandemic, and Trump, who had already flown to post-presidential life in Florida, weren’t there.

Jeffrey Engel, founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Trump isn’t a good fit for the ex-presidents club “because he’s temperamentally different.”

“People within the club historically have been respected by ensuing presidents. Even Richard Nixon was respected by Bill Clinton and by Ronald Reagan and so on, for his foreign policy,” Engel said. “I’m not sure I see a whole lot of people calling up Trump for his strategic advice.”

Former presidents are occasionally called upon for big tasks.

George H.W. Bush and Clinton teamed up in 2005 to launch a campaign urging Americans to help the victims of the devastating Southeast Asia tsunami. When Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast, Bush, father of the then-current president George W. Bush, called on Clinton to boost Katrina fundraising relief efforts.

When the elder Bush died in 2018, Clinton wrote, “His friendship has been one of the great gifts of my life,” high praise considering this was the man he ousted from the White House after a bruising 1992 campaign — making Bush the only one-term president of the last three decades except for Trump.

Obama tapped Clinton and the younger President Bush to boost fundraising efforts for Haiti after its devastating 2010 earthquake. George W. Bush also became good friends with former first lady Michelle Obama, and cameras caught him slipping a cough drop to her as they sat together at Arizona Sen. John McCain’s funeral.

Usually presidents extend the same respect to their predecessors while still in office, regardless of party. In 1971, three years before he resigned in disgrace, Richard Nixon went to Texas to participate in the dedication of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s presidential library. When Nixon’s library was completed in 1990, then-President George H.W. Bush attended with former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

Trump’s break with tradition began even before his presidency did. After his election win in November 2016, Obama hosted Trump at the White House promising to “do everything we can to help you succeed.” Trump responded, “I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future” — but that never happened.

Instead, Trump falsely accused Obama of having wiretapped him and spent four years savaging his predecessor’s record.

Current and former presidents sometimes loathed each other, and criticizing their successors isn’t unheard of. Carter criticized the policies of the Republican administrations that followed his, Obama chided Trump while campaigning for Biden and also criticized George W. Bush’s policies — though Obama was usually careful not to name his predecessor. Theodore Roosevelt tried to unseat his successor, fellow Republican William Howard Taft, by founding his own “Bull Moose” party and running for president again against him.

Still, presidential reverence for former presidents dates back even further. The nation’s second president, John Adams, was concerned enough about tarnishing the legacy of his predecessor that he retained George Washington’s Cabinet appointments.

Trump may have time to build his relationship with his predecessors. He told Brower that he “could see himself becoming friendly with Bill Clinton again,” noting that the pair used to golf together.

But the odds of becoming the traditional president in retirement that he never was while in office remain long.

“I think Trump has taken it too far,” Brower said. “I don’t think that these former presidents will welcome him at any point.”

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‘It's a French problem!’ Britons furious as Macron begs for UK help with Eurostar bailout

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EMMANUEL MACRON has launched a desperate plea for the UK Government for bailout cash to keep the Eurostar alive. But Britons have lashed out at the French President’s demands.

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