Why Do We Suffer From Gun Violence?

              Now that Nancy Pelosi has given Sleazy Don a quick lesson in how to negotiate a deal, everyone in Gun-control Nation believes that some kind of gun bill will emerge from the Democratic-controlled House. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  But if any kind of bill is going to get voted through, the very least we should try to do is craft some kind of measure which will respond to the issue itself. And if the issue is what we call ‘gun violence,’ then we need to make sure we understand what that term really means.

              According to the World Health Organization, violence means an intentional injury committed against yourself or someone else. So gun violence would include suicide, homicide and assault, which reduces the CDC-based number of total gun violence from 124,761 to 106,624 because accidents don’t count. And accidents shouldn’t count in the overall scheme of things unless, of course,Gun-control Nation isn’t telling the truth about its support for 2nd-Amendment‘rights.’

              But of course they are telling the truth. After all,isn’t that why gun-control groups like Everytown only want to pass ‘sensible’ gun laws? Here’s what Everytown says: “Support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns away from criminals and other dangerous people.”  The Giffords group is even more explicit: “we can enact gun safety measures that save thousands of lives and do not threaten Second Amendment rights.”

              Wonderful, just wonderful. Not only does Gun-control Nation want to protect us from gun violence, they also take it upon themselves to protect Constitutional ‘rights.’  Now I’m confused. I thought the NRA was America’s ‘first civil rights organization.’ I thought it was the boys in Fairfax leading the charge to keep gun owners from facing a world without a 2nd-Amendment security blanket.  I mean, why did I give Wayne-o and Chrissie enough money to become a Life Patriot Endowment NRA Member if tree-huggers and Communists like George Soros and Mike Bloomberg are now making sure that we enforce a law which was ratified in 1791? Something’s not right here, something’s really not right.

              I’ll tell you what’s not right.  What’s not right is the attempt by my friends in Gun-control Nation to pretend they are committed to the idea that every ‘responsible’ and ‘reasonable’ American should be able to own a gun.  If there really is a chance to get a new gun law through Congress next year, why don’t we cut the bullsh*t, okay? 

              Would someone from Everytown please explain to me what is ‘responsible’ about walking around with a Glock pistol which holds 16 military-ordnance rounds? And if you don’t know the history of the 9mm cartridge, do me a favor and learn something about guns before lecturing me on your commitment to ‘reasonable’ gun laws.  Because in my state – Massachusetts – if you haven’t been arrested and convicted for some serious offense and you snooze your way through a gun-safety course which doesn’t require you to shoot a gun at all, you have just met all the sensible and reasonable requirements,Constitutional and otherwise, to walk around town with a gun. What are my friends at Everytown and Brady going to say about that?

              I’m really sick and tired of listening to my friends in Gun-control Nation tell me that we can end gun violence by just making sure that the ‘bad guys’ don’t have guns. Gun violence isn’t caused by guys, bad or otherwise. Gun violence is…caused…by…guns. I mean,you just can’t do to someone’s head with a baseball bat what you can do to their head with a gun.  I once accidentally whacked my brother on the side of his head with a Louisville Slugger and he suffered from double vision for a couple of days. He wouldn’t have suffered at all if I had blown his head off with my 1911 Colt pistol – he would have been dead.

              I don’t think it would be so terrible if Gabby Giffords stood up and said that she just doesn’t like guns.Who’s going to blame her for saying that?

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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?

A New Attempt To Understand Gun Violence. Will It Work?

              Here we go again. Yet another group concerned with gun violence has discovered that they are dealing with a ‘public health’ problem and are putting together a research agenda that will seek to reduce this threat to community safety and health. In this case the researchers,in King County, WA (that’s Seattle and environs) want to analyze “the relationships between victims, witnesses and perpetrators of gun violence the same way an epidemiologist studies the spread of contagious disease,” the goal is “to find ways to intervene in the lives of the most vulnerable individuals….”  

              The research to be conducted follows from earlier research done by the gun-violence scholar group at the University of Washington led by our friends Ali Rowhani-Rahbar and Frederick Rivara, which found that victims of gun violence came back to the hospital with another gun injury much more frequently than people who were admitted for non injury reasons or the overall population at large.  This study covered the entire state in 2006-2007 and clearly established that the victims of gun violence were involved in a culture of violence which kept repeating itself in terms of future violent events.

              The new study will only cover Kings County, but will engage all 40 law-enforcement agencies operating within the county, hopefully leading to results that could be used to develop a comprehensive intervention strategy.

              Before I raise my usual concerns about this approach, let me make it clear that I have always supported the efforts by researchers to develop coherent explanations for the causes of gun violence leading to remedies for same. My problem with so much of the research, in particular research which is based on a public- health perspective, is that the way in which the research plan is developed often seems to be a case of using accessible data to develop a question which needs to be answered, rather than the other way around. 

              Why do 75,000 individuals, overwhelmingly males between the ages of 16 and 35, choose to inflict a serious injury on someone else by using a gun, when probably 1.5 million or more individuals in the same age cohort decide not to use a gun to engage in the same behavior?  After all, if you smash someone’s head in with a baseball bat, you’ll face the same homicide charge that you’ll face if you put a bullet between their ears. And folks, don’t kid yourself into believing that only 75,000 kids and young men who want to beat the s*it out of someone else can get their hands on a gun.  The friggin’ guns are all over the place, particularly in neighborhoods where violent assaults are frequent events.

              If the King County researchers have granular access to the actual criminal and health data on gun violence, I only hope they can gain access to the same kind of data covering the many more violent attacks where guns aren’t used. Because if we are ever going to figure out how to really make a dent in gun violence, it’s not going to happen by telling someone who bought a gun legally to engage in a 4473 transfer when he wants to sell the gun to someone else. It’s also not going to make much of a difference to lock all the guns away because I never heard of anyone getting shot with a gun that was locked in a safe.

              Know why we don’t know much about gun violence? Because the data on the gun violence which accounts for more than 70% of all gun violence happens to be non-fatal assaults, for which the CDC admits its numbers may be off by as much as 30 percent. Hopefully the data being examined in King County will help us figure out why some people commit violence with guns, but many others don’t. I’m still waiting for the answer to that one.

Gun Buybacks Work.

Next Saturday, December 15, my friends at Worcester Memorial Hospital and U/Mass Medical School are going to sponsor their 17th annual gun buyback that will run all day in the city of Worcester and many of the surrounding towns. This effort is the brainchild of Dr. Michael Hirsh, the pediatric surgeon at Memorial who first started thinking about gun violence when his classmate in the residency program at Columbia Medical School, John Wood, was gunned down across the street from the hospital in 1981.  You can learn more about the Worcester buyback program here.

The Worcester buyback is a partnership between the hospital and the city’s Police Department, or what Dr. Hirsh calls ‘white coats – blue coats,’ and the pic above shows Worcester DA Joe Early handing Hirsh a nice check.  The same buyback with the same white coat – blue coat effort will take place on the same day at New Haven and Hartford with Yale and U/Conn medical schools/hospitals involved, as well as in Springfield, MA with the involvement of the city’s cops and teaching hospital, and maybe several more sites still to be announced.  The choice of dates is not accidental; the buybacks are always conducted on the weekend closest to the anniversary of Sandy Hook.

When Mike Hirsh did his first buyback in 2002, the concept of giving in unwanted guns for a cash card here and there had been going on for at least forty years, but generally speaking, such activities received a bad press. Some of this negative image came from the work of criminologists, other findings about the limited value of buybacks came out of public health. There has also been a lot of mixed news about the 1996 buyback in Australia, although comparing a government-mandated gun turn-in where owners are fairly compensated for giving up legally-owned property to a community-run, voluntary turn-in effort is like comparing riding to work in a car as opposed to riding to work on a horse.

One of the leading scholars who used to find little value in buybacks is Garen Wintemute, who is quoted in an interview with NPR as saying that the ‘symbolic impact’ of buybacks is ‘important,’ whatever that means. Wintemute published some research on the effect of buybacks held in Milwaukee in 1994-1996, he compared the collected guns to the types of guns connected to gun fatalities and concluded that most of the donated guns were not the types that were used in gun violence; hence, buybacks don’t work. In 2013, Wintemure revisited the issue again and this time decided that buybacks, if coordinated with other initiatives, such as increasing community awareness about gun violence, were an effective tool. 

With all due respect to Wintemute and his research colleagues, the December 15 buyback led by Dr. Hirsh and other clinicians not only meets all the criteria mentioned by public health scholars as making buybacks a credible pathway towards reducing gun violence, but by basing these buybacks on a collaboration with medical centers, they do something much more important as well.

In fact, it was Wintemute himself (and Marian Betz) who published an important essay calling for physicians to become versent in the language and culture that would help them counsel patients on gun violence, in particular patients who appear to be at immediate risk. This article is regularly cited in every professional medical journal which carries articles on physicians and guns.

The reason that Dr. Hirsh and his buyback team focus their attention on participation by medical centers is that their buybacks serve as a practical, hands-on teaching opportunity for medical residents, medical school students and hospital staff. When community residents show up to donate a gun, they are asked to fill out an anonymous form which gives them an opportunity to explain why they decided to get rid of the gun.  The form is IRB-approved, more than 500 have been collected to date, and at some point the entire collection will be analyzed and sent to a peer-reviewed journal to be read by the public at large.  You can download the form here.  

Without going into specific details because the pre-publication analysis is not yet done, I can say that roughly half of the people who have completed the questionnaire to date state that they wanted to get rid of the gun because it represents a risk to themselves and others in the home.  In other words, what the buyback does is give people not just an opportunity to think about gun violence, but to make a decision, without government intervention of any kind, that having a gun around the home is too much of a risk. Now it happens to be the case that a majority of Americans believe the reverse; namely, that a gun is more of a benefit than a risk. Beyond what Mike Hirsh has been doing for the last 17 years, I don’t know a single activity being conducted by anyone in the medical community  which gives gun owners an opportunity to vote the other way.

More important than just the message about gun risk is the fact that at every buyback location you will find physicians and medical students from the cooperating medical centers engaging community residents in discussions about why they showed up to get rid of a gun. It’s all fine and well for public health researchers to state that doctors need to be mindful of ‘cultural values’ when talking to patients about guns, but how many times have these public health researchers stood next to a gun owner and ask why he is turning in a gun?  And by the way, for all the talk about gun buybacks being more successful if the value of the gift cards were increased, in fact, probably half the donors who show up at the Worcester buyback don’t ask for a gift card at all. “I don’t like that store,” one guy said to me last year as he rejected my offer to give him a gift card.

For the first time since the last Ice Age (actually since 1993) Worcester didn’t suffer a single gun homicide in 2017, non-fatal shootings totalled 24. Three years earlier, there were 7 gun homicides, the number of aggravated gun assaults was 38.  This dramatic reduction isn’t a function of the buyback program by any means; the cops now have ShotSpotter technology, they deploy patrol resources in a more effective way, community programs keep the kids busy after school and repeat offenders are taken off the streets.

But the point is that Mike Hirsh’s buyback program has become part of the social fabric of the community, it is also an important activity for educating medical staff, and its value should not be judged in quantitative terms. Seventeen years ago one person decided to do something to help make his community a nicer place in which to live. And year after year, his idea and commitment continues to spread.

Confessions of a Gun Nut.

Over the next several weeks, I am going to serialize and publish a new book – Confessions of a Gun Nut.  I’ll post each chapter on my Medium blog, and when it’s finished, I’ll publish it as an e-book. 

The purpose of this book is to use the more than 50 years that I have been in the gun business (and more than 60 years since I bought my first, real gun) to try and figure out what I know and don’t know about guns. 

Believe it or not, there’s a lot that I don’t know about guns. But I’m not about to kid myself into believing that because I can get my hands on some data, run the data through some statistical model or another and come up with some kind of ‘evidence-based’ conclusion, that I know anything about guns at all. And if I don’t know all that much about guns, the so-called experts on both sides of the argument know a lot less. 

In fact, what I find most interesting about the gun debate is the lack of modesty which seems to infect the pronouncements and publications of the individuals who turn up again and again as the self-identified authorities whose views form the accepted narrative in the gun debate.

If anything, the pompous and self-fulfilling judgements about guns and gun violence emanating from the academic research community tend, if anything, to be further removed from reality than the screeching which erupts from the other side. This is because most of the pro-gun noisemaking comes from the groups and organizations which exist for the purpose of marketing guns. Which means, at the very least, that they have to know something about the people who might actually buy their products.

On the other hand, the anti-gun movement (which is what gun-control people really want – they are against guns) has to operate under greater restraints than the pro-gun folks, most of all because they are committed to making arguments which can or should be supported by facts.  Now the fact that many of these so-called facts are nothing more than what this or that academic researcher claims to be facts – so what? In the greater scope of things what counts is whether your audience believes you or not.

Don’t worry – this isn’t going to be a kvetch by a pissed-off, former academic who didn’t get tenure and wants to get even with some of his tenured friends. First of all, I had academic tenure, so it’s not as if I’m sitting here all hot, bothered and jealous because gun-control researchers like Hemenway and Webster are inside the academy and I’m out. Second, I’m going to spend just as much time throwing slings and arrows at the pro-gun mob, if only because some of what they say is so dumb that it’s an insult even to their most ardent fans, and if anything, they often get away with it because their critics, being academics, often tend to be too polite.  On the other hand, if the academic gun researchers are too courteous to their opponents, they tie themselves into knots with the degree to which they are deferential to the work conducted by their academic peers on the same side.

Again and again I hear my friends in the anti-gun movement talking about how they want to craft gun-control policies that will be ‘reasonable,’ thus appealing to all those ‘responsible’ gun owners out there who just can’t wait to join them in the ‘middle’ of the gun debate. And along with this mantra comes the continued lament about how the ‘gap’ between the two sides is unbridgeable, and hence, simply resists any fair attempt to narrow the divide.

To the credit of gun owners, most of them will tell you that there’s a simple way to end the gun debate, namely, just stop complaining about guns and accept the fact that anyone and everyone should be able to own a gun, notwithstanding the 125,000 or so deaths and injuries that occur every year. And they should be able to own these guns without going through all this nonsense about background checks, and concealed-carry permits, and safe storage, and all that other Big Government crap.

On the other hand, how come the rest of the industrial world makes do without guns and we can’t?  Because if we agree that 125,000 deaths and injuries from the use of any specific product constitutes a crisis of public health, why should we put up with the continued availability of this product just because the Constitution says you can keep one in your home? The Commerce Clause also gives me the right to buy cigarettes. So what?

So stay tuned.  The chapters to Confessions of a Gun Nut book will shortly start rolling out. And I promise to respond to any and all feedback, at least up to a point.

Can Nancy And The Democrats Pass a Gun Law That Will Make A Difference?

Since I long ago gave up the idea that what I have to say about gun violence supports what my friends in Gun-control Nation want to hear, I’m going to spend today’s column taking some pot-shots at the single, most cherished goal of the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement, a.k.a., universal background checks.  Let me make it clear again that I have never (read: never) raised the slightest objection to reducing this awful social stain known as gun violence through, among other strategies, adopting public policies which work. But let me also make it clear that just because some piece of research finds a theoretical link between a certain public policy and an alleged outcome, doesn’t mean that the research isn’t flawed.

              That being said, it now turns out that Pelosi is telling the GVP that she intends to pass a ‘bold’ package of gun reforms right after the 116th Congress convenes.  She said this at a moving memorial service held in St. Mark’s Church, marking the anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, this event part of the month-long, national vigils against gun violence which you can support here.

The Numero Uno issue that Pelosi will doubtless try to pass is a law that would expand background checks beyond the initial point of sale.  Before I get into the research used to justify this policy, we need to spend a bit of time understanding what such a law would require in terms of how the infrastructure which supports the background check process would have to change. You can promote any public policy you want, but unless you figure out and implement the logistics required to make the policy actually achieve its goals, I mean, what’s the point?

The theory behind universal background checks (UBC) is that if every gun transfer required the recipient to fill out a 4473 form, then register the transfer registered with FBI-NICS, this process would keep guns from falling into the hands of individuals who, under law, cannot own or have access to a gun. Fine.

In addition to qualifying the behavior of everyone who would be receiving a gun, the process would also make it easier for law enforcement to figure out how a gun that was used illegally or inappropriately ended up in the ‘wrong’ hands. Also fine.

Now here’s where the details meet the devil, okay? First, we have absolutely no idea, and my friends in the gun-research community have never attempted to figure this out with any degree of accuracy, how many guns are floating around in the ‘wrong hands’ right now. Nor do we have any verifiable data on how many guns are stolen each year, thus adding to the arsenal of guns in the ‘wrong hands.’  If my friends in public health would spend a little more time trying to figure that one out and a little less time pretending that regression analyses using synthetic controls really tells us how a new gun-control law impacts gun violence rates, maybe, just maybe we could craft some kind of policy that would diminish the illegal flow of guns.

Since Sandy Hook, three states – Oregon, Washington, Colorado – have instituted UBC.  In 2014, these three states experienced a gun-violence rate of 11.37 (ICD-10 Codes: W32-W34, X72-X74, X93-X95, Y22-Y24.)  In 2016, the rate was 11.88.  Would anyone like to tell me the connection between UBC and a 4% gun-violence increase in these three states? We don’t have official 2017 data yet, but in Oregon they are referring to 2017 gun-violence rates representing a ‘modest spike.’  Great, just great.

If Speaker Pelosi and her GVP allies want to take a bold step forward in the fight against gun violence, I have a simple idea.  Why don’t they just craft a bill that would strictly regulate the manufacture, purchase and ownership of highly-lethal handguns?

Oh! We can’t do that!  It’s a violation of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights!’ In fact, it’s not a violation of any Constitutional ‘right’ at all. And yes, I will shortly be explaining this on my new Facebook page. Please stop by.

 

Does Concealed-Carry Increase Gun Violence?

What would happen if every red-blooded American above the age of 21 went walking around with a gun?  Right now there are somewhere above 14 million men and women who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon, and since there are roughly 70 million between the ages of 21 and 65 living in a home with at least one gun, let’s say that the number of gun -carrying adults jumped from the current 14 million to 40 million; in other words, one out of every two.

              If this were happen, first and foremost the gun industry would recover from the doldrums it has been experiencing since the election of Sleazy Don Trump. Funny, isn’t it? We finally elect a President who endorses concealed-carry and the gun industry collapses like a wet suit on the golf course; it’s in the dumps.  If the Democrats make the mistake of running fat-ass Hillary in 2020 again, Sleazy Don will stay in the Oval Office until 2024 and the gun business will wither and die.

Let’s pretend for the moment that the Clintons finally shut up and go away, the blue team nominates a serious candidate (sorry, but my friend Deval Patrick ain’t no Obama on The Bomber’s worst day) and both the Senate and the House seat a majority who aren’t red. The new President is inaugurated in 2025, the gun-control gang demands its much-deserved payoff, and another semi-useless gun law actually gets into the Federal code

Could it happen?  I’m not quite ready to take the short odds, but this scenario doesn’t immediately fail the plausibility or possibility test. And if it does happen, we might easily end up with 40 million or more Americans who can wander around with a handgun stuck in their pocketbook or their pants.

Bear in mind, of course, that we do not have any real idea of how many people legally able to carry a concealed Glock or Sig are actually walking around with a gun. I asked a number of people who had gotten their concealed-carry permit(CCW)  after they had taken the safety course I teach whether or not they were carrying a gun on a regular basis, and the ratio of CCW license-holders to gun-carriers was on the order of ten to one. After the immediate thrill of playing Bruce Willis or John Wick wears off, walking around with a gun, unless you’re paid to walk around with a gun, is a real pain in the ass. Sooner or later you’ll forget it, or you’ll drop it, or in some other way you’ll do something stupid or careless and God forbid what you do causes the gun to go off.

Despite what my Gun-control Nation friends believe, the idea that people with legal concealed-carry privileges are a threat to others or themselves is simply not true.  In the last 12 years, CCW-holders shot and killed 1,200 people, of which 550 happened to be the  CCW -holders themselves. Which means that, on average, people who walk around with a legal handgun fatally injure 55 other people every year.  That’s 4/10ths of 1 percent of yearly gun homicides.  This makes CCW-holders a threat to community safety and peace?

The biggest joke of all is the opposition to  national concealed-carry law by various office-holders from blue states (ex: Schumer – NY) who say they don’t want gun-toters coming into their state from another state where CCW licenses are simply given away, as opposed to more restrictive states (like New York) which require more detailed vetting and a safety course before CCW is approved.

Is Schumer serious?  Does he think that the Sheriff in New York State’s Chenango County gives one rat’s damn about a more detailed background check or what’s being taught in the so-called ‘safety’ course? Chenango County has about as many people living in it as live in the same square city block in Manhattan where Schumer lives.

Want to get serious about reducing gun violence?  Stop going after straw men like CCW and do something about the guns.

And while you’re at it: https://www.facebook.com/nostinkingun/.

 

 

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Want To End Gun Violence? Get Rid Of The Stinkin’ Guns.

Now that the 116th Congress is going to convene in January with a solid blue House majority, and to the extent that this majority owes something to the hard work of my Gun-control Nation friends, perhaps it’s time to have a serious and deliberate discussion about the gun-control legislation that might begun to be put into place.

             After all, for the last eight years the gun-control gang could talk themselves blue in the face about assault rifle bans, comprehensive background checks and all that other good stuff. But the odds that any gun-control law might rear its head and emerge from Congress ranged from zero to zilch. Guess what? For the same reason that the blue Senate team slipped backward in 2018,  the GOP in 2020 will have a difficult time holding its majority in the Upper House. And anyone who wants to make book that Sleazy Don will be sitting in the Oval Office in 2021  better be willing to take very, very long odds.

Since it normally requires multiple Congressional sessions for a serious gun-control measure to get up to speed (the 1968 GCA68 law was initially introduced in 1953; the Brady bill that was passed in 1993 was first filed in 1991,) the folks who will be creating, pushing and sustaining the narrative for a new gun law better start working on it now.

The two legislative remedies for gun violence which appear to have the best chance of ending up in serious and positive floor votes are comprehensive background checks and a renewal of the assault weapons ban.  The former initiative appears to have support across the board, the latter could easily happen if a couple more nuts wander into a school, a shopping center, a house of worship or some other public venue and start blasting away.

The problem with both of these gun-control strategies, however, is that they don’t really get to the core of why we have a problem with gun violence and therefore, even if enacted, wouldn’t make that much of a difference in the rates of gun violence that we currently absorb.

The core problem is that the system that regulates the ownership and use of guns is fundamentally flawed because it is based on regulating the behavior of gun owners, rather than on the design and function of the guns themselves. If I walk into a gun shop today and but a rusted, old shotgun that probably doesn’t even work, I have to jump through the exact, same legal hoops that I would jump through if I bought a 16-shot Glock 19, along with 4 extra hi-capacity mags.  That old shotgun will only injure someone if I load it with modern ammunition, pull the trigger and the gun blows up. How many of the 125,000 gun injuries suffered last year resulted from someone using a Glock or another concealable, hi-powered handgun?  Most of those injuries, that’s for sure.

Again and again the discussion among gun-control advocates turns on the ‘fact’ that we own so many guns – somewhere between 300 and 400 million. But a majority of those guns are sporting rifles and shotguns which rarely show up in gun crimes at all. We are the only country which gives its residents relatively free access to handguns; we are the only country which suffers from an unacceptable level of gun violence. Want to end gun violence? Get rid of the guns that cause the violence.

Notice I didn’t state my approval for a handgun ban. But personally speaking, I have never supported an advocacy narrative simply because it might succeed.  I support advocacy that is rooted in truth. And the truth is that handguns cause gun violence. Period. End of story. End of debate.

Shouldn’t ER Doctors Know What To Do About Gun Violence?

Yesterday a horrendous shooting occurred in of all places a city named Chicago.  But as opposed to most shootings in Chicago, this shooting didn’t take place in the street.  In fact, it happened at Mercy Hospital, located on the city’s South Side. The hospital treats its share of shooting victims from the surrounding streets. This time, the victims were hospital staff themselves.

              The story behind the shootings was the same old, same old. Guy gets into an argument with girlfriend, out comes the gun and bang, bang, bangity-bang. The first victim was an ER doctor named Tamara O’Neill, evidently the former fiancée of the shooter, a relationship she broke off at some point prior to yesterday’s attack.  The shooter, identified as 32-year old Juan Lopez, may have possessed a concealed-carry permit which, no doubt, he obtained in order to validate his 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ The episode started with an argument between Lopez and O’Neill in the hospital parking lot; the ER doctor was shot dead right on the spot, Lopez then ran into the hospital, killed two more people, then was either shot by the cops or killed himself.

There’s probably a good chance that the late Dr. O’Neill was a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the professional organization which sets treatment protocols and lobbies for ER medicine at both the federal level and individual states. The organization’s website recently posted a study in which nearly half of 3,536 ER doctors reported that they had been physically assaulted during their work in an ER. Not a single respondent to this national survey claimed that the person who attacked them used a gun.

Perhaps this is the reason why ACEP gives generous political donations to Congressional members representing various districts throughout the United States, but also representing the NRA. What I mean by that is there are 15 current House members who receive the coveted A+ rating from the boys in Fairfax, which means they make sure that what the NRA is what the NRA gets.

The leader of this pack of fools is Richard Hudson (R-NC) who has received $20,000 of the $143,000 that ACEP has contributed to the campaigns of these 15 NRA reps in 2016 and again this year. Why does Hudson rank Numero Uno when it comes to ACEP’s political support? Because he sponsored Public Law 115-83, which eases registration requirements for EMS companies to use controlled substances during an emergency call. One other NRA rep, Ralph Abraham, was given $1,000 and he is listed as a co-sponsor of the bill. Not a single other NRA Congressional toady was a co-sponsor of this legislation, but ACEP found it convenient to give them $122,000 over the last two campaigns.

This bill was passed in the House with a unanimous vote by both parties, no debate. A real tough one, okay? ACEP needed to give Hudson 20 grand for this? And by the way, Hudson also happens to be a major supporter of the national concealed-carry bill, which if it had passed and he was still alive, Dr. O’Neill’s killer could have carried his gun into any other state. Of course after Parkland, Congressman Hudson tweeted his ‘prayers.’

I am sure that within a few days, the ACEP website will contain a loving and glowing tribute to Dr. O’Neill. Maybe the organization will establish a scholarship in her name. In the meantime, let me break the news to some of my friends who happen to be members of APEC and have yet to make a single peep about how their organization funds Members of Congress who, when it comes to gun issues, are the worst of the worst.

Here’s how you end gun violence.  Get rid of the goddamn guns. I don’t mean Grandpa’s rusted, old shotgun that has been sitting in the basement for the last twenty years or the little, 22-caliber rifle that you fired at summer camp. I mean guns like the type used by Tamara O’Neill’s ex-boyfriend to shoot her dead.

Can’t ER doctors figure this one out?

 

Don’t More Gun Injuries Mean More Business For Emergency Rooms?

Last week our friends at The Trace published an article on a brief but noisy exchange which broke out between a group of ER doctors and the NRA. The physicians have put up a website which claims to be collecting and distributing funds that will be awarded to gun researchers to make up for gun-research dollars no longer provided by the CDC.  The NRA is the NRA.

            This same bunch of physicians, whose gun-violence research credentials are impeccable, also put up a chain letter that could be sent to the NRA.  The letter was in response to an op-ed on the NRA website which basically told the medical community to stick its concerns about guns you know where.  The NRA editorial was the organization’s response to yet another medical article which found that, believe it or not, a connection between guns and gun injuries. Gee, what a surprise. And of course it’s even a bigger surprise that the NRA would deny that such a connection even exists.

Physicians and public health researchers have been publishing credible research on gun violence for more than twenty-five years. Know what these well-meaning and dedicated researchers have gotten for all their efforts? The elimination of CDC funding for gun research. That’s it. Period. Zilch. In fact, over the last several years, gun-violence rates appear to be going back up.  Oh well, oh well. Maybe another research article on gun violence will push the rates back down, right?  Wrong.

The good news, of course, is that the physicians who want you to sign their chain letter to the NRA also happen to be members of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the folks who usually have to figure out how to keep someone alive who has a bullet in their head. And they are remarkably skilled in this respect; of the 75,000 or so who suffer injuries from gun assaults each year, only 12,000 or so end up dead. The rest come back to the hospital on a much too-frequent basis and after a few more visits, also end up dead.

And how does the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) respond to this problem? They give substantial financial support to the politicians who make a career goal out of preventing even the most minimal gun reforms from moving ahead.

How does this happen? It happens because the ACEP has a PAC which over the last two election cycles donated almost $150,000 to the election campaigns of 15 House members who are rated A+ by the NRA. The NRA gives an A rating to just about every member of the House GOP caucus, but these 15 are in a group all their own. They are the spear-carriers, the most pro-gun guys in Congress, and they do whatever is necessary to make sure that no gun legislation rears its ugly head.

So here we have a remarkable situation in which some physicians use social media to advance their gun-control agendas (and their public personalities) while their professional organization uses their dues monies to advance the cause of the NRA. Now you would think that when a doctor named Michael Siegel began writing about this issue, his concerns would be shared and amplified by the members of APEC who would like you to believe they are tirelessly working to end gun violence, right? Wrong again.

The Trace article quotes one of the self-appointed, gun-violence leaders of the medical community, Garen Wintemute, who says that physicians should ‘privately’ approach politicians about gun violence because to raise these issues publicly would be ‘divisive’ and would hurt “relationships with elected officials with whom they work on a range of policies”.

Let me break the news to you gently Garen – you don’t know what you’re talking about, but God forbid you would admit to nec sciunt quicquam and keep your mouth shut. More than any other profession, doctors should be the loudest and most vociferous contributors to the public debate on gun violence, which means first and foremost telling public officials to stop being handmaidens for the NRA.