Want To Learn Nothing About Public health And Guns? Listen To The DRGO.

There are a couple of loud-mouth fools out there masquerading as physicians who run something called Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO).  Actually, what they run is a website that is sponsored by the 2nd Amendment Foundation, and these characters have been pandering to the NRA and the gun-nut audience since medical research on guns became verboten thanks to defunding of the CDC.

Their latest screed is an all-out attack on the decision by the major medical societies, along with the American Bar Association, to take a more aggressive stance on gun violence, something which has been defined as a public health issue since 1981.  And by the way, in case you’ve forgotten, the President that year happened to be a fairly-conservative guy named Reagan, not some gun-grabbing liberal like Clinton or you-know-who.

Gun violence was and is considered a public health issue for one simple reason, namely, that shootings result in the deaths and injuries of more than 100,000 human beings each year.  And it doesn’t matter whether these human beings are mostly old, White men living in small towns who impulsively stick a gun in their mouths and pull the trigger, or young, minority males who just as impulsively settle arguments with guns rather than their fists, the bottom line is that much of this damage wouldn’t occur if it wasn’t so easy to get one’s hands on a gun.

emt                I wouldn’t have any argument with the DRGO gang except for the fact that what they claim to be the mission and method of public health is so far removed from the truth.  In fact, not only do they misrepresent public health, they don’t even remotely or accurately convey what the public health community thinks about guns.  Instead, they pretend there’s no difference between the strategies promoted by advocacy groups like Brady or VPC, as opposed to peer-reviewed research conducted by experts in public health.

The fact is that gun-safety advocacy relies on public health research for many of the arguments that they promote in the public domain, but advocacy still drives public opinion, evidence-based or not.  The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we’re not entitled to our own facts.”  Public health research on any issue is an exercise in fact-building, how those facts are then used or not used by advocacy doesn’t invalidate the research itself. On the other hand, the pro-gun community not only eschews reliance on evidence-based research in forming and promoting their point of view, they often distort or wholly lie about the little bit of research which they claim proves what they say to be true.

And the most flagrant example of such lying is found in the attack on public health by DRGO.  Here’s the DRGO verdict on public health and guns: “Today the phrase ‘public health perspective’ as applied to gun violence only takes into account the harmful results of gunfire. It ignores the variety of reasons guns are valued. Most significantly, it ignores people using guns defensively at least 760,000 times per year (90% of the time not even needing to fire them) and the disincentive for criminality that promotes.”

Even if it were true that guns prevent 760,000 crimes each year, the idea that this transforms the 100,000 gun deaths and injuries each year into something other than a public health issue is absurd, and no physician who takes medicine seriously would advance such a stupid state of affairs.  But worse, the 760,000 figure wasn’t derived from any research at all; it was “estimated” by Gary Kleck in a Politico piece attacking critics of his research not because of what they said, but because their criticism was ‘proof’ they are part of the gun-grabbing cabal.

I’m going to send a note to DRGO that I’m willing to debate them any time, any place, on the issue of public health and guns.  They won’t agree to such a debate because they’re all about denying gun risk, not about truth.  Whatever happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

 

 

 

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Want To End The Argument Over Guns? Go Green.

Now that Mike Bloomberg has announced that he’s going to pour $50 million bucks into anti-gun campaigns, you can be sure that the argument over guns will heat up pretty fast.  One thing I’ll say for the former Mayor Mike is that he’s no shrinking violet, and if he decides he really wants to go after something, he makes his presence known.  So at the very least, whether he’s successful or not in expanding background checks or whatever other strategies he thinks will curb gun violence, we will hear some pretty angry comments coming from both sides.

I have written over 130 posts on guns, both on my blog and on Huffington Post, and I try to align myself with the words of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said, “everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.” I wish there were more acknowledgement of these wise words in the current debate but there’s not.  No matter which side grabs the microphone, opinions always seem to trump facts.

So I’m wondering if there isn’t a different way to approach the whole issue and look at the question of guns not from emotions, but from the perspective of their real value; i.e., what it is that a gun can really do.  Because the biggest problem in the gun debate, it seems to me, is that both sides justify their attitudes towards guns based on rationalizations that fly in the face of reality and simply aren’t true.  The idea that the 2nd Amendment is a sacrosanct, inalienable, God-given gift that cannot be limited in any way is Csimply not true.  It is enumerated as one of many Constitutional rights, and like every other Constitutional right, can be defined and limited by laws.  Conversely, the idea that America is some kind of weird outlier among Western nations because of its embrace and love of guns is also not true.  In fact, the United States is the only Western country in which hunting (and therefore ownership of guns) was extended to all citizens regardless of social class.  In the rest of the Western world, particularly our mother country, England, hunting (and therefore gun ownership) was limited to the Monarchy and the aristocracy; the common folk could actually be executed if they were found hunting or poaching on private land.

lewisGun ownership in the United States is embedded in the traditions and history through which the country was explored, hunted, settled and farmed.  The government encouraged this process through the 1862 Homestead Act,  but while vast swatches of the western half of the country was being settled by gun-toting folk, we were also creating the greatest industrial economy in the world, fueled by European immigrants who settled in enormous, urban-industrial enclaves like Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia and New York.  Guns weren’t part of the urban landscape back then, and they aren’t part of it now.  And these two very different histories and traditions aren’t acknowledged or even understood by the advocates for either side in the current gun debate.

But I have an idea for how his might change.  Turns out there are now more than 40 million American households that grow at least some of their own food.   This is an increase of 17% in just the last five years.  Now the gun industry has done pretty well over the same period, but that’s because gun owners are buying more guns, not because the percentage of people who own guns is really going up.  So I’m thinking that if so many new people are getting into farming, even if it’s only a tiny farm in their back yards, maybe the ones who aren’t gun owners will begin to appreciate the reason why Americans always had guns.  And this could lead to a recognition that we all have certain things in common, historically and traditionally, that speak to the value of guns. You certainly can’t say that either side understands or is saying this now. So here’s their chance.