Let’s Hope That Doctors Do A Better Job Of Dealing With COVID-19 Than They Have Done With Gun Violence.

              In this Plague Year all I can hope is that my friends in the medical community will do a better job of dealing with the current COVID-19 epidemic than they have done with the gun-violence epidemic that was first studied and defined in science-based medical studies published back in 1992 and 1993. I am referring to the studies by our friends Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara who found that access to a gun in the home was the cause of high rates of gun violence defined as fatal injuries, i.e., suicide and homicide.

              The death toll from intentional shootings since that research appeared is edging its way towards the million mark; in other words, somewhere around an average of 36,000 per year, maybe a few more. As of March 15, there have been 62 COVID-19 deaths reported in the United States, with the first fatality being registered as of February 24th. That’s 2 deaths a day, chump change compared to 100 intentional gun deaths that occur over the same period of time.

              How can a medical epidemic go on for at least twenty-five years and not only remain out of control but appear to be getting worse over the last several years?  Today the jerk in the White House said he believed we would have the virus contained by Summer at the worst. What do you think would have happened to the Dow Jones if Sleazy Don had gotten up and said that 30,000 people would die from the virus every year until 2045?

              I was hardly surprised when the gun industry reacted so violently to the research published by Kellerman and Rivara; after all, they were basically saying that a legal consumer product was too dangerous to be sold except perhaps under the strictest of conditions. At the very least, their research was an invitation for the government to regulate guns, and if you can show me any industry that wants to be regulated, I’ll show you an industry that doesn’t exist.

              On the other hand, I was not only surprised but indeed am shocked and dismayed at the manner in which the medical community has reacted to the Kellerman-Rivara evidence, both then and now. Because the response of medical organizations to the indisputable fact that access to a gun creates a medical risk which causes between 35,000 and 40,000 fatalities each year, has been to promote a mitigation strategy which doesn’t impact the incidence of the gun-violence epidemic at all.

              This strategy, now referred to as ‘consensus-based,’ says that physicians should tell their gun-owning patients that the risk of firearm ownership can be reduced by locking their guns away or locking them up. But the Kellerman-Rivara research did not (read: not) differentiate risk levels based on secured versus unsecured guns. Thus, the attempt by the medical community to find some middle path between owning versus not owning guns, flies in the face of what the evidence-based research actually shows.

              Not only does the medical community promote a response to the gun-violence epidemic that is contrary to accepted research, they go further and actually promote the spread of this epidemic by donating millions of dollars to the campaigns of Congressional members who describe themselves as being the foremost defenders of the ‘right’ to bear arms.  When I asked a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians why she had never spoken out against the fact that her organization (which gave her an award last year for her efforts to promote gun control) had donated more than $5 million to the campaigns of pro-NRA politicians since the Kellerman-Rivara articles appeared, she said: “Change takes time.”

              How much time do you need?  Twenty-eight years isn’t enough?

              It took me two days to research and write this column. During that time roughly 7 more people have evidently died from COVID-19. Know how many Americans have died from the gun-violence plague during those same two days?  Try two hundred, give or take a few.

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Gun Violence Isn’t Our Biggest Epidemic By A Long Shot.

              Every morning on my way to work I stop off at a mini-mart for coffee, maybe a doughnut, and sometimes I also fill up the car. I have no idea how many other Americans do the same thing every morning on their way to work, but it must number somewhere in the millions. Between gasoline,coffee and junk food, I probably put fifty bucks into the cash register of this mini-mart every week. Multiply fifty bucks by, let’s say 30 million commuters,that’s around $1.2 billion every week, okay? The real number is probably much higher than that.

              When I get on line to pay for my coffee, I notice that probably one out of every two customers in front of me buys at least one, five-dollar lottery ticket, one out of every three buys a pack of nine-dollar smokes, and usually two out of three buys some kind of junk food as well. And when I say ‘junk’ food, I’m talking about every ingestible product in the mini-mart with the exception of a few oranges which I have never seen anyone actually buy.

              For all the talk about healthy eating, fresh foods, low-carb diets and so forth and so on, Americans are captives of the processed food industry.  There is no other advanced country whose population consumes so much crap.  How do I know this?  Because the United States ranks at the top of the heap of all advanced countries when it comes to being fat.  The current obesity rate in the United States is nearly 40%, which is twice the rate for the OECD as a whole. The U.S. obesity rate is four times as high as Switzerland, ten(!) times as high as Japan. And since our poverty rate is somewhere around 12%, this means that most of our obese population consists of the same men and women who stand in front of me on the mini-mart line.

              Now if you follow the discussion about gun violence,you have certainly heard that our gun-violence rate is the highest in the OECD. Our friend David Hemenway has published comparisons between the U.S. gun-violence rate and other ‘advanced’ countries,finding that gun violence in the United States is 7 times higher than anywhere else. To put it in dollars and cents, we suffer from 35,000 gun deaths and rack up at least $8 billion in direct medical expenses every year.

              Let me break it to you gently, okay?  The numbers on the cost of U.S. gun violence are peanuts compared to what it costs us to walk around with so much fat. In 2008, the CDC estimated the medical costs incurred for treating conditions directly caused by obesity to be $147 billion, almost 20 times more than what we spend on injuries caused by guns.And while Gun-control Nation has recently sent out an alarm that deaths from guns in 2018 will exceed deaths which occur when we smack up our cars, deaths from obesity have been exceeding automobile deaths for years.

              Anyone who believes that gun violence is a worse ‘epidemic’than obesity either needs to have their head examined, or their waistline measured, or both. On the other hand, both obesity and gun violence share one,common thread; namely, both are caused by the ability of consumers to purchase legal products whose threats to health are barely controlled. There isn’t a single kid in the United States whose school doesn’t have a ‘healthy eating’course in the curriculum. Know how much difference this has made to obesity? No difference.  Now we have a group of dedicated, gun-violence researchers who have been given money to develop online courses on gun safety that can be used in public schools. Good luck, guys.

              Want to get rid of obesity?  Get rid of processed foods.  Want to get rid of gun violence? Get rid of – guess what?