More than a quarter-century ago, two brilliant researchers, Fred Rivard and Art Kellerman, published research which definitively linked gun access to increased risk of suicide and homicide. Frankly, the entire corpus of gun-control research hasn’t really gone beyond what they said, because nothing more needs to be said. Either there’s a gun around or there isn’t, and if there is, to quote Walter Mosley,“it will go off, sooner or later.”
This research resulted in the elimination of gun-research funds from the CDC budget, with Gun-nut Nation convincing a majority of Congress from the dumb states that this kind of research was being conducted not for science, but for partisan (read: liberal) political ends.
Now that the House has flipped blue, Gun-control Nation and their medical, public-health allies are beating the drums for a resumption of CDC-funded research. Of course when and if such legislation comes up for a vote, you can bet the other side will argue that studies showing that guns are a risk to health are nothing more than politically-motivated research. The funny thing is, however, that public health research done since CDC funding ended is not only political in terms of topics and goals, but happens to be research that protects the ownership of guns.
Huh? Am I saying that noted scholars like the folks at Harvard and Hopkins want to keep America awash in guns? That’s exactly what I’m saying, and if my friends at the NRA home office in Fairfax would come back to their senses, they’ll realize that the best friend they have is a former New York City mayor whom Gun-nut Nation believes to be the devil incarnate when it comes to guns. Before you think that I’ve lost my sense, please read on.
Here’s the policy statement from the Everytown website: “Support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns away from criminals and other dangerous people.” As if the 2nd Amendment says anything about whether Americans have the ‘right’ to own a small, concealable handgun which holds 18 rounds of military-grade ammunition and happened to be the gun used by Seung-Hui Cho to kill 33 people on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007.
The reason we are the only advanced country which suffers from gun violence is not because we only do background checks at the initial point of sale; it’s not because we have 350 million guns floating around; it’s not because we don’t have PTP licensing; it’s not for any of the reasons that my friends in public health research have decided requires yet another study to figure out how to reduce violence caused by guns.
The reason is because we let the gun industry determine which guns are safe enough to be sold, while the regulators try to figure out ways to keep the most lethal consumer products imaginable out of the ‘wrong hands.’ And this naïve and foolish view, which pervades virtually every aspect of gun research, flows over into the medical community as well. Doctors are advised to show more ‘respect’ for gun culture, counseling their patients not to get rid of their guns, but to store them in a safe way. Note that the studies by Kellerman and Rivara don’t distinguish between stored and unstored guns.
I would like to end this column on a hopeful note. I am not trying in any way to denigrate the work of my many public health friends who conduct research on gun injuries and, it goes without saying, would like to see such injuries eliminated or at least reduced. But as long as this research community continues to avoid figuring out why some people deal with their fears by buying guns, telling these folks that guns represent a ‘risk’ is to tell them nothing at all. Either we get rid of the guns that are responsible for gun violence or we don’t. And until/unless we get rid of those kinds of guns, there will be plenty of gun violence to serve as topics for gun research.