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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Here He Comes Again: Tim Wheeler Continues His Crackpot Attacks On Physicians

NRA Headquarters, Fairfax Virginia USA

NRA Headquarters, Fairfax Virginia USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just when I thought we heard the last of him, Tim Wheeler’s back in town with his patented combination of half-truths, distortions and outright lies about physicians and guns.  In case you haven’t heard of him, Wheeler is the head of something called Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership which he founded back in the 90’s to help the NRA convince Congress to cut gun research funding for the CDC.  Wheeler, who claims to be a physician, has never published a scholarly article of any kind, nor for that matter has he ever engaged in any medical or scientific research about guns or anything else. But because he can put the initials MD after his name, the NRA trots him out every time gun research appears in a medical journal.

Wheeler’s loony version of reality was in full evidence this week following the publication of an article in the journal Pediatrics, which is a favorite target for the ravings of delusionals like Wheeler who pander for the NRA.  The article, co-authored by a dozen medical specialists who work in emergency and trauma departments in the Far West, compared treatment outcomes and costs for children at emergency facilities based on the type of injury suffered that led to admission.

In addition to gunshots, the study covered cuts, blunt object injuries, falls and vehicle accidents. Not surprisingly, gun shots comprised the smallest number of all injury categories.  But gunshot injuries also resulted in the highest cost per admission, more than $28,000 per patient (the next highest, vehicle accidents, was $15,000,) and the highest incidence of in-hospital mortality.  In other words, when a kid gets hit with a bullet, he or she will require a degree of medical care that is unlike any level of care required for any other type of serious injury.

In brief, that’s what the article says.  That’s all it says. Oops, there are some recommendations which I’ll quote: “Public health, injury prevention and health policy solutions are needed to reduce gunshot in juries in children.”  I’m quoting the recommendations so that you’ll understand the irresponsibility of Wheeler who reacted to this study in an appearance on NRA’s Cam Edward’s talk show by condemning the “anti-gun hype” of this and other medical research on guns.  And just to make sure that his argument remained at the absolutely lowest intellectual level, he didn’t miss the opportunity to remind everyone that since the majority of the gunshot patients were minority males ages 15 to 19, there’s no doubt that they were gang members whose criminal behavior brought the injury on themselves.

The truth is, that with the exception of quacks like Wheeler, the NRA is afraid of physicians. They fear physicians because they know that most Americans probably trust their physician more than they trust anyone else.  They rely on their doctors, they confess their deepest fears and secrets to their doctors, and when a parent wakes up in the middle of the night and hears that child in the next room having difficulty breathing, he’s not going to grab the phone and call the NRA.  He’s going to call the doctor.

The NRA has spent the last twenty years trying to convince us that we will all be safer if we all have a gun.  Most physicians disagree.  I’m not sure that the research has yet been conducted or published that definitively proves one or the other point of view.  But I do know that the shrill and stupid comments by people like Timothy Wheeler only serve to debase the efforts of honest people to search for a reasonable point of view.

 

NRA (or should I say DRGO) versus AAP: Round 2

On May 14  I published a blog criticizing the NRA ally Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership for attacking Dr. Judith Palfrey and the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The head of DRGO, Tim Wheeler, responded with several letters  which you can read (along with my responses) in the sidebar to that blog.   In one letter, he told me that all of his articles were “painstakingly researched,” but if I found any errors he would be glad to correct them.  So here goes~~

  1. On May 14 Wheeler published a link to an interview he gave on the NRA Video channel in which he referred to the gun safety advice given by Dr. Judith Palfrey on CNN.COM as “dangerously wrong.”   In fact, her specific advice for keeping guns and kids safe in the same home (lock the guns up, loan and unload carefully, etc.) reads like it was lifted right out of the NRA’s Gun Safety in the Home manual, a course that many NRA instructors, myself included, have been teaching for years.
  2. On May 7, Wheeler’s blog contained several references to America’s “100 million gun owners” whose political clout would be felt at the polls.  The latest surveys indicate that 40% of all U.S. households may contain guns.  Is Wheeler saying that each of these households has 2 1/2 gun owners living under the roof?  I guess he’s assuming that for every guy in a house with a gun there must also be a gal and of course she’s just as much into guns as he is.  Fine.  That still leaves us how to figure out the identity of the half owner.
  3. The May 1 blog was about the lobbying of AAP on Capitol Hill.  His blog referenced a story from The Hill, and asserted that the AAP wanted to ban all semi-automatic weapons and refused to recognize criminology research “showing responsible gun ownership to be a net social good.”  None of these assertions can be found in the referenced story, so I guess they’re from Wheeler’s memory bank. There’s only a small problem. The AAP has only wanted to ban semi-automatic weapons that hold hi-capacity mags (which puts them well within the mainstream) and there has yet to be a single piece of academic scholarship that has definitively linked  gun ownership to crime rates, either negatively or positively.
  4. The April 29th blog was a snide description of the CDC meeting held the previous week to begin discussing research priorities if and when Congress appropriates funding to once again allow the CDC to support research into gun violence.  Perhaps Dr. Wheeler took painstaking notes about the meeting but there’s no evidence that he did any research for this blog.  He was at pains, however, to note the absence of another right-wing, pro-gun researcher named John Lott who, according to Wheeler, is the nation’s “foremost researcher of the effects of gun ownership on crime.”  So here we have one painstaking gun researcher vouching for the credentials of another one.  Except there’s one little problem, namely, that Wheeler is talking about the same John Lott whose painstaking research was discredited when it turned out that he not only faked data used for his thesis but later faked his own identity to strike back at his critics.
  5. The April 19th blog is simply an unvarnished editorial about the defeat of the Manchin-Toomey Amendment in the Senate along with the usual anti-Obama claptrap that sometimes makes me believe that people like Wheeler still think that the 2012 election didn’t take place.  Painstaking research?  There’s no research.
  6. The April 16th blog is a rehash of the May 14 blog which attacked Dr. Judith Palfrey and the American Academy of Pediatrics over their position on guns, and since Wheeler found it necessary to repeat his criticisms about the AAP, I’ll repeat my comments about him.  Either he didn’t bother to read the AAP Policy Statement on Preventing Firearm-Related Injuries, in which case he’s simply wrong.  Or he did bother to read it in which case he’s not only wrong but a liar.  And just to make it clear, when I use the word ‘liar’ I am simply asserting that someone knows something to be true and states otherwise.  If Dr. Wheeler read the AAP Policy Statement he could not have described it the way he did unless he consciously chose to misrepresent what was said.  In which case, he’s a liar. Either way, this blog does not contain any painstaking research, or any research of any kind, for that matter.
  7. The April 2nd blog is an attack on Marian Wright Edelman who, as President of the Children’s Defense Fund spoke out about gun violence after the massacre at Sandy Hook.  There’s no research here, there’s just another editorial swipe at a long-time advocate for children who doesn’t think that guns and kids are a good mix.  But I did notice one tiny bit of data that struck me as rather odd, given that it was presented by a man who describes his own research as “painstaking.”  In his attack on Dr. Edelman, our painstaking scholar Wheeler mentions that 80 million Americans own guns.  Yet his May 7th blog contains several references to the 100 million Americans who own guns.  Is he saying that 20 million more Americans became gun owners between April 2nd and May 7th?  I raise this point because Dr. Wheeler assured me in his response to my previous blog that his work was based on “painstaking” research.  So I took him at his word and began looking for examples of his painstaking efforts.  I read every word of his last seven blogs and the only, single fact that I could find that came from him rather than from someone else was the number of Americans who own guns.  Except that the number changed – in just 5 weeks it jumped by 20 million.

So much for the painstaking research of Dr. Wheeler, the NRA medicine-man who can’t tell the difference between research and editorials and probably doesn’t care.  Yes, we will be publishing some more blogs on Wheeler and the other so-called scholars who toady up for the NRA.