Monday, April 13, 2015

Poisoned Policemen??

We've all heard the stories and seen the videos about police officers shooting and otherwise abusing unarmed black people.  I heard a special on NPR the other day that made a connection in my mind, and raised a question I have to ask.  Allow me to digress to get there.

Police officers shoot guns, mainly with lead bullets.  They train, regularly, on shooting ranges, so their skills will stay sharp.  The Seattle Times has released a report on the impact of unventilated indoor shooting ranges on the health of police officers.  I heard a radio broadcast of this on Saturday, April 11, but the report is also available online:

Lead endangers officers

This is Part 4 of their 5 part series, Loaded with Lead.  I was astounded to hear that lead exposure in a single week actually killed a training instructor:
In Londonderry, N.H., a 35-year-old police sergeant died of lead poisoning just days after training his fellow officers at a private indoor-gun range.
The range had a ventilation system that wasn't working.  He went home, went to bed, and never woke up.

Lead is a poison.  It kills people.  We've known this for centuries.  It's beginning to become a major issue in some police departments; some have stopped using lead bullets, some have stopped using indoor firing ranges.

But what does lead poisoning do to you, before it kills you, other than making you feel sick?

The Mayo Clinic page on symptoms of lead poisoning states that symptoms of lead poisoning in adults include:
  • Declines in mental functioning
  • Memory loss
  • Mood disorders
I don't believe I've heard anyone ask the question:  do the officers who were involved in those publicized incidents train on unventilated, indoor shooting ranges?  Were they, in fact, suffering from lead poisoning?  Most of the studies of lead poisoning that I can easily find are of lead poisoning in children; there's not much about adults.  But the studies of children suggest that severe lead poisoning in children can lead to "aggressive, violent behavior and explosive tempers."  Does it do that in adults?  Does anyone know?

I'm not trying to suggest that the officers in the publicized cases were not racists; they may have been.  But is a racist with lead poisoning more dangerous than a racist without it?  Do we even know??  Is anybody asking?

The worst thing about shooting ranges is that nobody is responsible for inspecting them, and that applies to private ranges as well as ranges owned by the police.  I strongly recommend you read the entire Seattle Times series, especially if you are a shooter.

If you regularly shoot on an unventilated, indoor shooting range, your health is at serious risk.  If nobody regulates shooting ranges, the people who spend time there are responsible for finding out how healthy the environment is, on their own.  You get to choose whether to ask the questions or not.

But I still wonder about the officers in Ferguson, on Staten Island, and in North Charleston, South Carolina - on what kind of shooting range did they train??