Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Personal Protective Equipment

I am Canadian. My family moved from the US during the time of the American revolution and has farmed it's small patch of Canada for over 200 years. I grew up in a hunting family within a community steeped in a hunting culture where it was expected that if you killed something it was for food or money, trophies were for city people. It was all long guns though. For my 16th birthday I got my own 20 gauge shot gun and for my 18th birthday I got my own rifle. I have had any number of near accidents with guns handled by either the young (watch where you point a loaded gun!) or idiots (watch where you point a loaded gun you idiot!). Indeed, one of the great traumas to happen to my family was a hunting accident that resulted in a death.

In an earlier lifetime I supervised a research group and when I wasn't writing papers I was writing grant applications. One of the grants that I was awarded was with a company in New Jersey that required me to travel down to the mothership once a year to justify my past funding and beg for more. It was altogether the most enjoyable part of the my career as a research academic. The company probably treated me like any other employee but to a tenure-track academic it seemed like I was handled like royalty.

One year, by coincidence, I was attending a conference in Philadelphia which was very close to the mothership and I sent a message to my company handler that I was nearby and would be happy to give a preliminary update. The company was very pleased and my handler offered to drive to Philadelphia to meet me in person. The night before we met I had walked to a nearby restaurant and took a shortcut off the main streets that resulted in my coming in contact with some very aggressive street people. I would not say that I was mugged but my personal space was violated and my contributions seemed less than voluntary.

Anyway, it was getting dark again when my company handler Louis showed and said that since the company was paying the bill why don't we grab a quick meal at a nearby restaurant? I said sure and we headed to the restaurant as the dark descended. I tried to keep Louis on the main streets but he headed straight down the darkened side street in a confident stroll. Same street people, completely different attitude, one guy asked "please?" and Louis gave him a fistful of pocket change like a nobleman passing out charity.

When we got to the restaurant, I marveled at Louis's confident street smarts and the difference in the attitude of the street people. Louis smiled and revealed that his confidence was largely due to the fact that he was carrying three handguns, one in his armpit, one on the small of his back and one in an ankle holster. He noted to me that it was his opinion that the street people knew he was carrying as well. Later that night Louis gave me a lesson on how to tell American from Italian handguns by the way the trigger moved.

I asked Louis if he wore guns to work and his eyes got a bit mysterious and the conversation moved on. I have to assume that large American chemical companies have a handgun in the workplace policy and that American universities must have a no handgun on campus policy but I am also surprised that handgun related incidents at research group meetings are not more common. Rage happens and access to handguns could not in anyway make dealing with a group member in a rage any easier.

My American cousins remain in my prayers. Take care, make good decisions.


Pootie Tang said...

I'm impressed that fellow was able to keep all three handguns concealed so well. Most gun owners that do choose to carry a concealed firearm know their hardware well and would gladly talk for hours about it.

The last point you make in your post is somewhat confusing. My background is in organic synthesis and I would find it both amusing and somewhat odd that a PI would be uncomfortable with their students/postdocs (provided they met state and/or local requirements)from carrying a concealed firearm to and from lab. If a PI would be so worried of the possibility that one of their researchers might shoot them at group meeting, then maybe the PI should have exercised some better judgement before hiring them and then GIVING THEM UNRESTRICTED ACCESS TO HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS! Let's be real here, if you work in a well stocked chemistry lab then you have access to enough dangerous chemicals or at least the precursors to those chemicals. Many of these I consider much more dangerous than bullets. Give me a day in lab and I will turn a car into a heap of scrap metal.

Also, all public universities in the state of Utah allow licensed concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms on campus. The university police are required to uphold state law. That said, good judgement is required. I would consider it irresponsible to carry a firearm while say working near an NMR spectrometer.

Liberal Arts Chemist said...

I was wondering what a US university policy was for concealed weapons. Thanks for the info. I agree that given a chemical lab and some time most chemists could cause some serious mayhem. The key part of that would be the time factor, as you say "give me a day".

Pootie Tang said...

Utah and I believe several public universities in Colorado also allow concealed carry on campus and in campus building. Now there may be some finer points to those regulations, which would require reading the actually text of that state's criminal code.

For instance in the state I work, no business can restrict an employee or contractor from carrying a firearm in their car in the parking lot (as long as it is not clearly visible). However, there are exceptions to that law, and reflect the nature of the employment (e.g. prisons, child daycare, secure chemical facilities are exempt)

The overwhelming majority of colleges and universities prohibit the concealed carry of firearms as do many large corporations at their respective labs. I am unsure how private businesses handle carry permits but I suspect it is a state by state basis.

Liberal Arts Chemist said...

California Gun Free Campus

Liberal Arts Chemist said...

I'm just going to park post related links here in the comments

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For a while it was all about research and then it was all about teaching and now it's all about trying to find a balance while teaching at a small liberal arts and science university.