Extremism guides too much policy


Two potentially deadly mixes, both government-sanctioned, have resulted in harm or potential harm recently.

Will either policy change in the near future? Probably not.

First, the state Department of Health abides by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), otherwise known as the bane of the media’s existence when it comes to reporting and updating medical conditions of crime victims or sick public officials, etc.

Medical records and medical condition privacy are important matters for most Americans. HIPAA safeguards that privacy, but it can also shield important information that could help the public.

Say, for instance, that an insect-borne disease, West Nile Virus, is making its way across certain segments of the state. The Department of Health won’t release location information about the illness until after someone dies (usually). And so, in the meantime, folks in the affected area might not be taking as many precautions as they should.

Don’t release the sick person’s name. Fine. Don’t release his or her age or occupation. Fine. But, please, release at least the county where the virus has been proved to be. Please?

Alas, there seems to be no movement to change that policy anytime soon.

That thought came to mind as the umpteenth mosquito took its share of blood over the weekend in the South Arkansas piney woods.

Another policy is gaining steam, not cooling off.

Concealed carry permits are becoming more prevalent, and as more people carry weapons on our streets, we are more likely to see shootouts like the one that took place on a New York City street.

A man was on his way to kill his boss and maybe coworkers, who knows, but he got found out, and a hail of gunfire killed him. Problem is, all that lead-flinging wounded nine citizens.

Here’s the deal: The two men who killed the suspect and wounded the nine bystanders weren’t Wyatt Earp types, intent on taking back the country from the wusses who don’t pack heat. No, they were certified law enforcement officers.

Ponder that for a moment. Guys with honest-to-goodness firearm training and testing killed their target but missed badly enough to wound nine other people in the process.

What would have been the outcome if two wannabe Rambos had come across the suspect? How many more bystanders could have found their way to a local hospital with a bullet lodged in them?

As a nation, we’re not moving away from concealed carry. We’re actually working toward open carry, and that might actually work out better. Still seems like people who want to carry a weapon around have options to satisfy that craving. Law enforcement. Military. Overseas contractor. Any of those would satisfy that need while not endangering innocent bystanders.

We often say that we are a nation of laws. Indeed we are. We have many of them. We don’t often enforce some of them. Perhaps that’s what we oughta work on before we pass any other regulatory attempts to change behaviors.

Some of our knee-jerk reactions go overboard and exacerbate the problem at the heart of the matter. HIPAA is an example. It has put privacy above the public’s need to know in some situations. Other reactions slink away from powerful lobbies and acquiesce. Concealed carry. Hello?

Americans have been at this democracy thing for a couple of centuries. We haven’t figured it all out yet. We may never. Thank goodness we have concerned Americans to keep us on the straight and narrow. Listen to what they say. Don’t let the extremists on either end govern policy that affects us all.

Or don’t stand too close to a guy aiming to kill his boss.

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Rick Fahr is a longtime journalist in Arkansas, who most recently was editor and publisher of the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway. His e-mail is rickfahr@yahoo.com.