Sunscreen and hyper-reactive concern for children

You know I’m a sucker for stories about crazy over-reactive parents leading to absurd laws and policies.  Here’s the latest example and it’s nice to know its getting some pushback from the saner elements of the public:

Maryland health officials were making revisions late Friday night to a new policy that would have severely restricted who could apply sunscreen to children attending summer camps.

The new policy, which was issued last month, ordered summer camp operators to steer away from assisting kids with applying sunscreen and to get parents’ permission before letting any child use sunscreen at camp…

The guidelines said, “Camp staff should limit touching the camper as much as possible. Under no circumstances should campers assist each other in the application of sunscreen.” The policy also prohibited camps from supplying sunscreen to campers.

The rationale?  Why the campers’ sense of personal safety:

Health officials had argued that their motivation was strictly about safety. “Our intention is certainly not to discourage the use of sunblock,” Mitchell said. “It’s really to walk a fine line between protecting kids’ skin and making sure they feel personally safe.”

Oh please!  I know nothing threatened me more when I was a kid than somebody assisting me with sunscreen.  I’ve over the mental scars thanks to years of therapy.  And here’s the key fact in all this:

Mitchell said he did not know of any cases of inappropriate touching by counselors that might have led to the new regulations.  [emphasis mine]

I wonder what other regulations they can come up with for problems that don’t actually exist.

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Guns for the mentally ill

If there’s one thing most everybody should be able to agree on, it’s that we don’t want guns in the hands who are mentally unstable. Wait, make that everybody but the NRA and some amazingly careless judges.  The New York Times did an in-depth investigation about how easy it is to get your right to own a gun restored after having it taken away for something such as an involuntary committal to a mental institution.  Short version: way too easy.  Sure, somebody who goes through a severe depression and is able to strongly bounce back and demonstrate this for a decent period of time should be able to have this right restored,  but in some cases people had their rights restored within just months of being involuntarily committed.  With some judges, all that you need is a single doctor’s note with no attention given to medical records.  Yes, that’s obviously nuts.  And, of course it matters:

The difficulty of assessing risk emerges in places like Los Angeles, where the Superior Court conducts a relatively thorough review of firearms rights requests. The Times found multiple instances over the last decade in which people who won back their gun rights went on to be charged with or convicted of violent or gun-related crimes, including spousal battery, negligent discharge of a firearm or assault with a firearm

Well, that’s obviously not good.  The story explains how this all came to pass:

A handful of states have had such restoration laws on their books for some time, but with little notice, more than 20 states have passed similar measures since 2008. This surge can be traced to a law passed by Congress after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech that was actually meant to make it harder for people with mental illness to get guns.

As a condition of its support for the measure, the National Rifle Association extracted a concession: the inclusion of a mechanism for restoring firearms rights to those who lost them for mental health reasons.

The intent of these state laws is to enable people to regain the right to buy and possess firearms if it is determined that they are not a threat to public safety. But an examination of restoration procedures across the country, along with dozens of cases, shows that the process for making that determination is governed in many places by vague standards and few specific requirements.

Again, let’s be clear here: a diagnosis of mental illness should definitely not permanently terminate someone’s right to own a gun.  Nonetheless, we have clearly made it way to easy to re-instate that right in people who are either obviously still dangerous or who have clearly not had enough time go by to accurately assess whether they’re still dangerous.  Thanks NRA and careless judges!

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