A psychiatric patient is in critical condition, his caseworker is dead, and his doctor is recovering from a grazing wound to the head following and argument and gunfight in the psychiatric unit at the Mercy Wellness Center, in Darby, PA,  Thursday afternoon.

49-year-old patient Richard Plotts and his caseworker, 53-year-old Theresa Hunt, went into the office of psychiatrist, Dr. Lee Silverman for an appointment. Shortly after arriving a heated argument broke out, and a staffer peaked through the door to see the patient, Plotts, pointing a handgun at Silverman. The staffer then quietly shut the door and dialed 911 to alert police. Moments later, the situation turned violent, according to Delaware District Attorney Jack Whelan:

“When the caseworker [Hunt] was shot, (Silverman) crouched down behind the desk to avoid him being shot,” Whelan said.

“He was able to reach for his weapon, and realizing it was a life or death situation, was able to engage the defendant in the exchange of gunfire.”

Mercy Wellness Center is, of course, a “gun free zone,” though one that the patient and the doctor both chose to ignore. Plotts apparently ignored the signs prohibiting weapons because he was violently mentally ill and was intent on taking lives. Dr. Silverman apparently kept his handgun because he knows that people like Plotts exist and ignore silly signs.

The local police chief suggests that Silverman’s decision to ignore the “gun free zone” signs may have prevented a hospital massacre:

Yeadon Police Chief Donald Molineux said that ‘without a doubt, I believe the doctor saved lives.’

‘Without that firearm, this guy (the patient) could have went out in the hallway and just walked down the offices until he ran out of ammunition,’ the chief said.

The hospital has a policy barring anyone except on-duty law enforcement officers from carrying firearms on the property.

Because Silverman ignored this ineffective law, police say that lives were saved.

By violating the hospital system’s weapon policy Dr. Silverman will likely lose his job.

Because he ignored the policy, however, he and others didn’t lose their lives.

* * *

“Gun free zones” do not now, nor have they ever, saved lives.

They instead create the illusion of safety for the faint-hearted and soft-headed, where those intent on committing multiple homicides have a greater chance of carrying out a massacre unopposed.  Mercy Health System’s policy is similar to that of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University, the Century movie theater in Aurora Colorado, Fort Hood, the Washington Navy Yard, and other scenes of mass murder where the law-abiding are made easy targets by ignorant people.

Perhaps we should change these signs to be more accurate.