Last month a 3-year old in New Mexico grabbed his mother’s gun and shot both Mommy and Daddy, although luckily both parents survived. The previous month in Idaho, Mommy wasn’t so lucky when her 2-year old pulled a gun out of her purse and shot her to death. Both of these senseless, ridiculous events provoked the usual storm of media coverage leading to the predictable condemnation of guns on the one hand and defense of guns on the other.
Don’t get me wrong. We are all human and we all do stupid, senseless things, from driving when we’ve had too much to drink, to sitting in a full bathtub while trying to plug a hair dryer with a loose wire into the wall. But what’s different in the case of these gun accidents is that we’re not talking about something as important as an automobile or even as necessary as looking the best we can before we leave home for work. We are talking about the decision to walk around with a gun, based on the idea that guns protect us from crime.
I have no issue with people who decide to carry a gun and I have never written a single word calling for limits on CCW or gun ownership, believe it or not. But I think that if people decide to buy or carry a gun for self-defense, they should understand the risk involved, and not let the gun industry’s marketing serve as the final word. Unfortunately, some of the most uninformed and blatantly misleading information about guns is provided by a small group of physicians who should know better, if only because physicians are the one profession in which decisions about risk can only be driven by evidence-based knowledge and not by their own personal views of what’s good for a patient’s health. It’s a group of medical crackpots called Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, which began life in the mid-1990’s as a sycophantic, pro-NRA effort to defund gun research coming out of the CDC. They claim to have a network of more than 1,400 health professionals but their website, associated with the 2nd Amendment Foundation, is just a blog on which several physicians post commentaries whose distortions and downright falsehoods have been the subject of more than one of my own posts.
Just to be clear, I don’t have any issue with anyone who wants to opine on any subject at all. But when a professional dispenses professional advice that runs counter to the accepted practices and policies of his profession, then we’re not just dealing with idle talk. In the case of medicine, we are dealing with advice which, if followed by patients, could result in serious medical harm. To cite one example, in a recent DRGO post, the physician-author claims that “research shows how more guns in the right hands can minimize violence.” There is no such research, at least none that meets even a minimal, evidence-based standard. Is this physician counseling someone concerned about violence to go out and buy a gun even though he can’t point to a single, evidence-based study that validates his point of view?
To show you how loony and unprofessional the DRGO group really is, their website carries a commentary by Jane Orient, a physician who told a conspiracy-minded web-hosted talk show that more than 100,000 West Africans who might be infected with Ebola were sitting in Central America getting ready to cross into the United States. If Jane Orient is now the standard by which DRGO defines statements about medical risks from guns, Ebola or anything else, it becomes impossible to imagine that physicians belonging to this organization should be counseling on health risks at all. But the point is that these medical charlatans don’t believe that guns are a risk. And they are happy and even proud to promote this nonsense because they don’t support the Hippocratic Oath. They support the marketing strategy of the NRA. In the interests of full disclosure, I’d love to know how much and to what degree the 2nd Amendment Foundation is supporting them.