Politics of Gun Control

Author: 
Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD
Article Type: 
Correspondence
Issue: 
July/August 2000
Volume Number: 
5
Issue Number: 
4

Another letter which did not make it to the pages of the politically correct medical journals was one I wrote to the Western Journal of Medicine (WJM) in regards to an editorial subtitled, "Physicians are morally obligated to help prevent gun violence," published in the November/December 1999 issue.

The editorial was an unscientific diatribe promoting gun control typical of what is being increasingly published in the medical literature by the public health establishment.

December 28, 1999
Dear WJM Editor,

Space constraints prevent me from challenging every erroneous assertion made by Drs. M.A. Rodriguez and Eric Gorovitz in their exceedingly biased op/ed piece, "The politics and prevention of gun violence." Their paper reflects the typical but extreme prejudice of the public health (gun control) establishment that permeates the medical literature on gun violence.

They write "people killed by guns" as if inanimate objects kill people, when in fact, people kill people --- with guns, knives, hands, feet, etc. They spew forth gun statistics but neglect to mention the impact gun safety courses have had in reducing deaths from accidental shootings. For example, the National Safety Council states that since 1930 the annual number of fatal accidents has been cut in half, even though there are twice as many people and four times as many firearms today.

They mention suicide but do not even mention that depression, a most treatable ailment, not guns, is, in fact, the most common factor associated with suicide, and it could be reduced substantially with effective diagnosis and treatment.

The authors quote FBI statistics (1998) to state that "household firearms are most likely to be used against a family member," when, in fact, this statement, erroneous as it is, should be attributed instead to Kellermann, et al, who is then quoted in the next two sentences.

They write, "unlike the situation for every other product sold in America, neither the Consumer Product Safety Commission nor any other agency" has the authority to regulate (effectively eradicate) guns from the hands of law-abiding citizens, but they neglect to state the insurmountable obstacle of why: because, among other reasons, the individual right to gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And one reason the FTC has "never challenged advertising claims made by the gun industry," may be because guns --- as astounding as it may seem to readers of the public health (but not those of the sociologic, legal, and criminologic) literatures --- are actually used more frequently by law-abiding citizens to deter crimes than they are used by criminals to commit crimes. Yes, the beneficial aspects of gun ownership by ordinary law-abiding citizens dwarf the criminal misuses of firearms."(1-3) Despite a surfeit of scientific and epidemiologic studies in the sociologic, legal, and criminologic literature discussing the benefits of firearm possession by law-abiding citizens, the truth is that the physicians have not been informed about this information by the medical journals because it has been effectively censored.

We now know from Professor Gary Kleck of Florida State University and Dr. Edgar Suter of Doctors for Integrity in Policy Research that the defensive uses of firearms by citizens amount to 2-2.5 million uses per year and dwarf the offensive gun uses by criminals. Between 25-75 lives are saved by a gun for every life lost to a gun. Medical costs saved by guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens are 15 times greater than costs incurred by criminal uses of firearms. Potential victims, with guns to protect themselves, and who know how to use them, are not only more likely to thwart a criminal attack but are also only half as likely to be injured in the process.(1,2,4,5)

Interestingly, a 1993 U.S. Department of Justice study made public in 1997 confirms these researchers' findings. President Clinton's Department of Justice study found that up to 1.5 million citizens use firearms annually to protect themselves and their property, and of those surveyed, 67.7 percent had effectively used a weapon to defend themselves against violent crime.(6)

The authors write that gun lawsuits "create indirect incentives for changes by shifting the costs of risky behavior or products from the consumer to the industry that produces the risk." What it really does is to shift individual responsibility from a person who should be held accountable to perceived deep pocket defendants (i.e., gun industry), creating yet another bonanza for the sue-for-profit litigation industry, and abrogating, by extra constitutional means, a formerly protected, individual constitutional right in the process. Gun litigation is contributing to the moral decadence afflicting our society by removing personal responsibility from the individual --- not to mention the moral sense of right and wrong.

And one more item --- if Drs. Rodriguez and Gorovitz are on the government payroll in public health, they do have a competing interest, that of promoting gun control and it should be reported as such by the WJM.

Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD

References

1. Kleck G. Point Blank - Guns and Violence in America. New York, NY, Aldine De Gruyter, 1991.
2. Kleck G. Targeting Guns - Firearms and Their Control. New York, NY, Aldine De Gruyter, 1997.
3. Lott JR, Jr. More Guns, Less Crime - Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press, 1997.
4. Suter E. Guns in the medical literature - a failure of peer review. J Med Assoc Ga 1994;83(3):137-148.
5. Suter E, Waters WC, Murray GB, et al. Violence in America - effective solutions. J Med Assoc Ga 1995;84(6):253-264.
6. US Department of Justice 1993 study reported by The Washington Times, 9/07/97, http://www.usdoj.gov.

To the credit of WJM with its new editorial leadership, I must state, it has been the most open of all the mainstream medical journals to the exchange of views in the medical marketplace of ideas.


Correspondence originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2000;5(4);113-117. Copyright©2000 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).

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