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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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More than 20,000 Haitians are gathered in Colombia for possible migration to U.S.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are tracking large groups of Haitians in Latin America, including more than 20,000 in Colombia, who like the thousands now massed on the Texas border may soon try to reach the U.S., according to an internal document obtained by NBC News.

The Department of Homeland Security document also said the DHS Office of Professional Responsibility, the agency’s internal watchdog, is investigating an incident in which a Border Patrol agent on horseback in Del Rio, Texas, grabbed a Haitian migrant by the shirt. The incident, captured by a news photographer, drew widespread criticism Monday, prompting White House press secretary Jen Psaki to describe it as “horrific.”

In addition to the 20,000 Haitians gathered in northern Colombia, DHS is also monitoring groups of about 1,500 in Panama and 3,000 in Peru, the document said. A senior DHS official said it remains to be seen when and whether those migrants will come to the U.S., but they have begun “staging” in the various countries, potentially signaling they are planning to travel in large numbers.

Like the surge of 15,000 Haitian migrants who arrived in Del Rio over the past week, most of the migrants in Central and South America left Haiti years ago, many of them after the 2010 earthquake, and have been living in other countries.

Recent economic conditions in those countries, as well as what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas described as misinformation about the Biden administration’s willingness to take in Haitians, have triggered many to seek protections in the U.S.

When DHS has previously monitored caravans of migrants headed to the U.S. border in large numbers, there has been a two to three-week lag between their departure and their arrival. But many of the recently arrived Haitians took buses through Mexico, expediting their arrival and increasing their numbers.

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CIA director’s team member reported Havana Syndrome symptoms during India trip

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A CIA official reported symptoms consistent with so-called Havana Syndrome, a mysterious affliction that has struck diplomats, spies and other government workers at home and abroad, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News on Monday.

The unidentified employee was traveling with CIA director Bill Burns during a trip to India this month. The employee was immediately tested as part of a protocol the CIA has established to deal with the mysterious brain symptoms typically associated with Havana Syndrome and is receiving medical treatment, the sources said.

The incident was first reported by CNN.

This is the latest reported case of a U.S. government employee reporting symptoms associated with the mysterious ailment. Havana Syndrome first came into public view in 2017 after U.S. diplomats and other government workers stationed in Cuba reported feeling unusual physical sensations after hearing strange high- and low-pitched sounds. U.S. government employees have also reported cases while in China and the Washington, D.C. area.

In late August, at least two U.S. diplomats were medically evacuated from Vietnam after Havana Syndrome incidents were reported in the capital city of Hanoi ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris’ arrival.

“The health and well-being of American public servants is of paramount importance to the administration, and we take extremely seriously any report by our personnel of an anomalous health incident,” a senior administration official said Monday night. “It is a top priority for the U.S. government to determine the cause of these incidents as quickly as possible and that we ensure any affected individuals get the care they need.”

Many people who have experienced Havana Syndrome report experiencing vertigo, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and intense headaches. Some describe it as being hit by an invisible blast wave. Some have no longer been able to work.

The India incident has raised questions about whether a foreign adversary had intentionally targeted the CIA director’s staff, but the sources said the agency is unclear what exactly could have caused the incident. The case is one of a number of new incidents in recent months involving CIA personnel who experienced what U.S. officials call “anomalous health incidents,” the sources said.

A CIA spokeswoman declined to confirm the case in India but said the U.S. government and the agency are taking every incident seriously.

“Director Burns has made it a top priority to ensure officers get the care they need and that we get to the bottom of this,” the spokeswoman said. “We’ve strengthened efforts to determine the origins of the incidents, including assembling a team of our very best experts — bringing an intensity and expertise to this issue akin to our efforts to find Bin Ladin.”

The spokeswoman added that a panel of experts has been convened from across intelligence agencies “to work collectively to increase our understanding of the possible mechanisms that could be causing [anomalous health incidents].”

Many U.S. officials suspect the incidents, which have caused permanent brain injuries in some victims, are a result of an attack or surveillance operation by Russian spies, but the evidence is inconclusive.

The National Academies of Sciences said in a report last year the most likely cause of the injuries was directed microwave energy, but that conclusion is being debated in the scientific community.

Last week, deputy CIA director David Cohen said the agency is getting closer to solving the mystery, but there are limitations.

“In terms of have we gotten closer, I think the answer is yes — but not close enough to make analytic judgment that people are waiting for,” he said.

Josh Lederman contributed.



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Boris Johnson tells jab-sceptic Brazilian President to get 'great' AstraZeneca vaccine

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BORIS JOHNSON has told the jab-sceptic Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to get a dose of the “great” Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccine.

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