OP-ED

Why Public Health Needs a New Gun Doctrine

The Future Looks Like a Girl With a Gun Resized

I am a public health professional, educated at the vaunted Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Hygiene and Public Health. I like guns, and I believe the Second Amendment clearly secures the rights of individuals to own firearms.

You read that correctly. I am a public health professional.

And I like guns.

This make me a heretic in American public health, where embracing firearms and the rights of gun owners is a gross violation of orthodoxy.

As a society, our focus on guns and not gun users derives from the shock of mass killings, such as those in Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO, Virginia Tech, and Norway, which has some of the strictest gun control laws on the planet. Mass killings, however tragic, get distorted by saturation media hysterics and 24-hour political grandstanding. What gun opponents refuse to discuss is the precipitous fall in violent crime and deaths by firearms over the past 20 years, and how it coincides with an equally dramatic increase of guns in circulation in the US.

While that isn’t cause and effect, the association is certainly curious.

In 2013, the Institute of Medicine, at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control, produced a report on firearms violence that has been ignored by the mainstream media. The upshot: defensive use of firearms occurs much more frequently than is recognized, “can be an important crime deterrent,” and unauthorized  possession (read: by someone other than the lawful owner) of a firearm is a crucial driver of firearms violence.

That report went away for political reasons. Translation. Nobody wanted to talk about it because it raised more questions than it answered.

The tragic mass murders in Virginia, Colorado, Norway, Connecticut, and most recently California, showcase the failure of the healthcare system, including potential abuse of prescription drugs, and families where parents either checked out or were willfully oblivious to what their children are doing.  They are also outcomes of popular, feel-good movements, such as deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, colliding with communities that had no means to deal with the consequences. Adam Lanza, Anders Breivik, Seung Hui Cho, James Holmes, and Elliot Rodger all needed  treatment, and, if necessary, involuntary commitment, with due process for both admission to a facility and subsequent release.

My public health approach to the problem of gun violence starts with the assumption that every gun owner is not a raving, irresponsible nut, but in fact a person of some seriousness who has a legal right to choose to own a firearm.

My next assumption is that the most egregious gun violence happens in communities that are broken, such as inner city Baltimore and St. Louis.

Again, a topic that is not to be spoken.

Gun control will not fix schools, restore neighborhoods, stabilize disintegrating (wealthy or poor) families, employ people, heal mental illness, rejuvenate local economies, or help create self respect. I support gun courts and mandatory, no-parole sentencing for people who commit gun crimes, with a massive public education campaign to back it up.

Public education works and is central to many public health issues, from highway safety to tobacco use reduction, but for some reason, when it comes to guns, the public health establishment’s histrionic reflex is not to educate but to control and confiscate. According to the FBI, in 2012 there were 8,855 firearms homicides, down 7% since 2008. By contrast, 33,516 people died on the nation’s highways in 2012, and alcohol abuse claimed 88,000 lives.

Where’s the clamor to control and confiscate cars, cellphones (deadly when used while driving), and booze?

Before buying a firearm, I took a gun safety class and got advice from experienced friends.

I choose to store my guns in accordance with commonly promoted safety guidelines. My son (10) can pick up each shotgun and ensure that both the magazine and chamber are empty. He can check the safety, point it correctly, and place it safely in a case. He also knows how to hold and hand it to an adult. In a state where guns are ubiquitous, this is an essential skill in case he is ever in the presence of child who thinks that his family’s carelessly unsecured guns are toys, not lethal weapons. Of course, he also knows to exit that room and get an adult.

Gun owners should not, however, get their hopes up that the public health community will ever take them seriously. Public health students are taught early on that guns are evil, that the people who think otherwise are an ignorant, backward, Jerry Springer watching lot and that there are some questions you don’t ask: at least not if you want to pass the class.

This says more about the public health community than it does anything else.

More about that one in a future essay. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Ironically, public health academics happily assert that there is a clear Constitutional right to privacy, even as they vilify a right that is actually expressed in the document, and they merrily condescend to its adherents, whom they regard as pathetic rubes. Here is how gun owners can thwart the push to have doctors ask about the presence of guns in a home during a routine history and physical: refuse to answer on the grounds of the much heralded penumbra-emanating right to privacy.

As for the claim that gun rights proponents oppose the conduct of legitimate research, consider this. Many years ago, I asked a very powerful anti-gun academic the following questions: What proportion of gun crimes are committed by the lawful owner of a legally purchased firearm, and what percentage of lawful gun owners use their firearm in commission of a crime?  He said that he did not know, and that he would oppose conduct of the research to answer both questions.

The answer was no surprise, and neither should my rejoinder be: molon labe.

Vik Khanna, THCB’s Editor-At-Large for Wellness, is author of Your Personal Affordable Care Act: How To Avoid Obamacare, which is available now in the Amazon Kindle Marketplace (for all Kindles and Kindle apps) and at Smashwords.com (for other e-readers). Clickhere to visit the book’s website.

Livongo’s Post Ad Banner 728*90

376
Leave a Reply

68 Comment threads
308 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
123 Comment authors
Howard NemerovBrian BattlesJim HolmesBobHoward Goodman Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Jim Holmes
Guest
Jim Holmes

I’m bothered by one thing. You support “gun court..” Do you realize that I could murder someone with a knife or baseball bat and not get the same prison sentence as I would if I used a gun? This is not rational. Valuing one lost life less than another. Our country is currently trying to pull itself out of mandatory life sentences for some criminals because the form of cocaine in their possesion had baking soda added. Party guy gets caught with a gram of cocaine, he gets 18 months, but if it has baking soda in it, it’s a… Read more »

Steve S
Guest
Steve S

Wow! Great post Jim.

I can’t wait to hear a response to your closing question from all the brainiac anti-gunners.

Bob
Guest
Bob

Bobby needs to review:
http://www.gleamingedge.com/mirrors/onsheepwolvesandsheepdogs.html
and understand there are those amongst us who are willing to protect the others. Some of us are sheepdogs. most of you are sheep. Some of you are wolves. You decide where you want to be and the level of involvement you want. Go blithely along with your ear buds plugged in, blissfully unaware and unprepared. Some of us will watch out for you.

Bob
Guest
Bob

I, too, am a public health professional (regional emergency response coordinator). I have been a life long member of the NRA and fully support the lawful ownership and use of firearms, including for self defense if so needed. I am a hunter education instructor, range safety officer, master hunter, and concealed carry licencee. My immediate staff agree with me but we are an island amongst the indoctrinated others. But I would risk my life to protect any of them and am equipped and trained to do so.

StevenTorrey
Guest
StevenTorrey

Gun control simply means that people have to register their weapons with the State; people have to pass a background check on criminal behavior or psychiatric history, a limit to magazine size; prohibits certain types of ‘assault weapons’ like the Bushmaster AR 15, M16, AK47, Uzi, etc. The NRA contribution is to encourage training in the use of that weapon, security of that weapon, and a lobby for gun owners and manufacturers. With 310 million weapons in America–representing some 47 million households–plus or minus–society does not know, cannot predict who the next psycho-shooter is. The reality of randomness becomes a… Read more »

StevenTorrey
Guest
StevenTorrey

And the psychotic screed of the NRA gun nut psychos reduces itself to the notion that America should accept the murder of 20 children between age 6 and 7 with a Bushmaster AR15 as 2nd Amendment collateral damage. Joe the Plumber’s cynical assertion–“The death of those children does not trump the 2nd Amendment”–speaks to how sick and disgusting these NRA gun nut psychos are.

StevenTorrey
Guest
StevenTorrey

With 81,000 gun non-fatal gun injuries, 10,000 gun homicides, 20,000 suicides–those numbers add up to a crisis in health care. And like so many health care issues there are preventive measures available. Hint: NO GUNS–NO GUN VIOLENCE.

Scot
Guest
Scot

1) It’s not possible to get rid of all guns. 2) No nation has reduced its overall rates of relevant crimes by any gun control laws 3) Getting rid of guns will not get rid of violence 4) The top mass murders in the US did not involve guns As others have noted, the rates of iatrogenic illness and death outweighs the rates of injury and death due to firearms. If criminals are a health care crisis, medical personnel are a much greater health care crisis. Y’all should take care of your own house before you start worrying about others,… Read more »

Brian Battles
Guest
Brian Battles

“GUN VIOLENCE” “GUN VIOLENCE” But what about all of the other violence? What about the violent beatings of little old ladies? What about the elderly men beaten to death by violent street gangs? What about the eighty thousand women who suffer rape every year? What about the one million two hundred thousand people who suffer from violent crime every year? Did you know that close to eight hundred thousand of those rapes and murders and violent assaults that led to grievous bodily harm did not involve firearms in the possession of the criminal? Eight Hundred Thousand victims of violent crime.… Read more »

Steve S
Guest
Steve S

Thank you Brian.

I’m sure your facts and common sense are lost on those that want to blame an inanimate object for the actions of mentally disturbed individuals.

Carl J. Armstrong Jr.
Guest
Carl J. Armstrong Jr.

@StevenTorrey: “Gun control simply means that people have to register their weapons with the State..;” Unlike some other national systems of government, ours is actually predicated on creating a detente’ between the people and the government, between the state and federal governments, and between the branches of the federal level with the intent to make it difficult for anyone to control the others without their consent. Registration and the other suggestions you continued to make are the sort of things that generate apprehension and possibly political or other conflict should they be initiated while probably doing very little in exchange,… Read more »

Steve S
Guest
Steve S

Carl…great post. Apparently @StevenTorrey doesn’t have any response. Not even his usual “You’re psychotic!”

Hopefully he’s at his local Wal-Mart buying an AR… 🙂

Scot
Guest
Scot

You list a number of things that you consider to be gun control. Are you aware that all of them have been tried, both in the US and in other nations, and not a single one has resulted in reduced rates of relevant crimes? And in most cases haven’t resulted in reduced rates of firearms related crimes. Actually, reality tells us that significantly over 99.99% of gun owners are sane and do not commit crimes. You might actually want to look at some of the criminology research on criminals, it is not true that any person is equally likely to… Read more »

DrDavid
Guest
DrDavid

Without reading all 300+ posts, I will assume that nobody has made the following points. Regarding the quality of what passes for gun “research” in the medical/public health community, I would refer you to this old (1995) but still valid article: http://www.constitution.org/2ll/2ndschol/58tenn.pdf This article is not free, but some of you may be able to get a copy through your school library. A critique of the epidemiologic study of firearms and homicide, published in Journal of Homicide Studies, in 1997. Here is a link to the citation: http://hsx.sagepub.com/content/1/2/169.refs I also didn’t see much in the way of data presented, so… Read more »

Jason
Guest
Jason

Good article.

JohnC
Guest
JohnC

Too many people die each year from car accidents and that’s a public health issue, so let’s ban all forms of transportation. That’s liberal logic. LOL

Govt knows better than you and because anyone makes a mistake, Govt will punish everyone by revocation of your privileges and rights,

How long before we have no rights and privileges left? Just eat, sleep, work, and repeat with no recreation, freedom, etc because life is too dangerous?

Brilliant!

Rich
Guest
Rich

Mental health is the avenue to gun confiscation

politicians and media push gun control in a dishonest manner

http;//fff.org/explore-freedom/article/who-is-mentally-ill/

JohnC
Guest
JohnC

How about this…

You idiots that hate guns, how about you simply choose not to exercise that constitutional right and STFU complaining and trying to get everyone else’s rights taken away?

Then…

The rest of us will exercise our second amendment rights and we just won’t bother one another anymore.

Fair enough?

Vik Khanna
Guest

JohnC: you make an important point, which is that a right is not a requirement. If you are uncomfortable around guns, don’t own one, survey your friends about their ownership of firearms and then tell the ones who own to take a hike. You actually may be surprised at the ones who own a firearm but have never talked about it. It is your Constitutional right to surround yourself with whomever you wish. For people who believe in #2A and who enjoy firearms, there are requirements with the right (as there for all rights and they are expressed through an… Read more »

Tweeder
Guest

How about THIS? Lose the lame Straw Man crapola equating everyone who favors rational regulation of firearms as a “gun hater.” Enough of you and your stomp-your-feet “rights.” __ “[One] peculiarity of our present climate is that we care much more about our rights than about our `good… [W]e tend to think that modern constitutional democracies are fine regardless of the private vices of those within them. We are much more nervous talking about our good: it seems moralistic, or undemocratic, or elitist. Similarly, we are nervous talking about duty. The Victorian ideal of a life devoted to duty, or… Read more »

GeorgeJoyce
Guest
GeorgeJoyce

I’ll be direct and to the point. It’s not about gun control it’s about removing guns completely. If you don’t agree with me then think of this common sense gun control. Everyone who is deemed responsible enough to own a firearm should be able to own any type of firearm including full auto and calibers over 20mm. Anyone who is deemed not responsible enough to own firearms due to violent behavior should be in prison, because if someone is that violent they should not be on the streets. When I hear common sense gun control that sounds like this I… Read more »

Excedrine
Guest
Excedrine

Except that it’s absolutely not a “Straw Man” argument to automatically assume that gun control advocates are in fact “gun haters” — because that is exactly the only thing they are and that they themselves have conclusively proven themselves to be.

Our “own good” ONLY flows from the “stamp-our-feet” protection of our rights in the first place.

ALL morality is subjective, a clear lesson taught by history that YOU seem to conveniently ignore.

Oh, and one more thing: we are NOT a democracy. We are a Republic. Go back to civics class — and PASS it this time.

Matthew Holt
Editor

This is the direct quote from John Howard, prime minister of Australia from 1996 to 2007. who BTW was such a lilly livered lefty that e took Australia to war in Iraq with George W Bush over the objections of 95% of his country “In the end, we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons. And today, there is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate. The Australian Institute of Criminology found that gun-related murders and suicides… Read more »

Carl J. Armstrong Jr.
Guest
Carl J. Armstrong Jr.

@Matthew Holt: “Few Australians would deny that their country is safer today as a consequence of gun control.” Did you know that–in terms of numbers–Australia currently has more guns in civilian hands than prior to that ban? In the same time frame, the Aussies increased their spending on mental health care by 85%. http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-n-report07-toc~mental-pubs-n-report07-a~mental-pubs-n-report07-a-gov You’re also looking at a group of people with a greater perception of shared identity (http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/RP9798/98rp01) which likely reduces intra-ethnic conflict compared to the US. Intra-ethnic conflict may not directly address many violent acts, but such conflict is likely one cause more criminal activity may be… Read more »

Excedrine
Guest
Excedrine

You conveniently forget the cold, concrete fact that according to the Australian Institute of Criminology AND the Australia Bureau of Statistics have both already concluded that gun control had absolutely zero effect in either crime nor suicide. There were in fact also at least FIVE more massacres after 1996. Four of them arsons, which killed more than a dozen people apiece. Don’t forget the Monash University shooting in 2010, either. Also, according to your own government’s latest Facts and Figures, violent crime still has NOT fallen back to pre-1996 levels, either, almost 20 years later. Firearms theft has also INCREASED… Read more »

Brian Battles
Guest
Brian Battles

Did you also know that the reported rape rate in Australia is fourteen times higher than that of the US overall? Did you also know that both the UK and Australia don’t report a murder *as a murder* until someone is convicted of it? So the killings by Jack the Ripper would never have been listed as murders in the modern age because the murderer was never *convicted*. Not caught, not accused, but convicted. And if there is some deal struck and the charge is dropped down to something less than murder? The victim simply wasn’t murdered. It is very… Read more »

Howard Nemerov
Guest

As a progressive health professional, I used to support civilian disarmament. After a law enforcement client suggest I do some research, I was surprised and dismayed to learn that in the 10 years after their gun bans, UK and AUS women experienced skyrocketing rates of rape. Assault and robbery also increased. Murder, always a rarity in those countries, simply went sideways, neither better nor worse. All that crime data came from the respective governments. But did those governments then say: “Well, we tried this experiment and it failed, so let the people own firearms for personal protection”? No, thus proving… Read more »

Matthew Holt
Editor

@Excedrine John Howard–Australian PM who banned the guns–would be very surprised to find out that he was a left-wing politician!

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/opinion/australia-banned-assault-weapons-america-can-too.html?_r=0

Excedrine
Guest
Excedrine

@Holt — Not really, being that he in fact IS a left-wing politician. It’s funny that you bring up the NY Times, too, because they have THIS to ay about “assault weapons” (which don’t even exist by the way):

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/sunday-review/the-assault-weapon-myth.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

In other words, it’s a dead end. Just like ALL gun control is. So uh, NO, Australia should NEVER have banned guns at all and the U.S. WON’T. Not again on a national level anyway.

StevenTorrey
Guest
StevenTorrey

When a person has a problem with alcohol–the person is told to stop drinking; the doctor warns of Wernicke’s Syndrome, Korsakoff’s Syndrome, cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, driving fatality from drunk driving. There is no debate about a ‘legal’ right to drink, or Constitutional right to drink. The drunk is now in a moral zone where salvation of the very soul is at risk as well as health maintenance. So too with guns–a person has to make an existential choice about gun ownership–and the Black community, which is afflicted with gun violence out of proportion to its size, has most… Read more »

StevenTorrey
Guest
StevenTorrey

And I’m not especially sanguine at the conclusion. The NRA gun nut psychos have hijacked the debate, by bully tactics, over gun control to sow confusion and doubt. It is a health care crisis and the author who says he works in the field of health care would have known the many articles attesting to that reality. He wrote an article contradicting the assertions of responsible members of the medical profession.

Carl J. Armstrong Jr.
Guest
Carl J. Armstrong Jr.

@StevenTorrey: “And I’m not especially sanguine at the conclusion. The NRA gun nut psychos have hijacked the debate, by bully tactics, over gun control to sow confusion and doubt. It is a health care crisis and the author who says he works in the field of health care would have known the many articles attesting to that reality. He wrote an article contradicting the assertions of responsible members of the medical profession.” Let’s consider something, eh? First, I’m going to propose that guns are not the only potential weapons to use in crime and/or acts of terrorism. I’m also going… Read more »

Vik Khanna
Guest

CJA, Jr: great note.

Please also see this article from Reason on the NY Times’ piece on Sunday acknowledging what most of us have known for some time: that, in the US, at least the assualt weapons ban amounted to absolutely nothing.

Scot
Guest
Scot

@StevenTorrey

Communities do not make choices. Individuals make choices. Some individuals choose, against the ‘choice’ of their community, to be criminals, and engage in criminal behavior.

No matter what you might choose to do, others will choose to own guns and to commit crimes.

Crime isn’t a health care issue.

Steve S
Guest
Steve S

StevenTorrey said: “The statistics of gun deaths–8,855 homicides, 20,000 suicides, 81,000 gun injuries makes gun violence a health care issue–not a Constitutional issue, not a legal issue, not even an issue of guns for self-defense. It becomes a health care issue.”

There are way, way, way more deaths due to “medical errors” than guns, Now who do we know that’s involved with ‘medicine?” Doctors? Right! So doctors should stick to addressing medical errors. They’ve got way more to work on than deaths due to guns.

StevenTorrey
Guest
StevenTorrey

You best hope those doctors are paying attention when they treat those 81,000 gun wounds. Even by the standards of the usual NRA gun nut psycho stupidity and thoughtlessness–your comment was extremely stupid and thoughtless.

Steve S
Guest
Steve S

Think what you want but there are simply way more deaths from medical errors yet you want to blame an inanimate object. Now who’s “stupid and thoughtless?” smh

DrDavid
Guest
DrDavid

“Even by the standards of the usual NRA gun nut psycho stupidity and thoughtlessness…”

Your overt bigotry indicates that you cannot have a rational discussion on this topic.

Excedrine
Guest
Excedrine

@Steve — The statistics “gun deaths”, which don’t exist because guns do not cause death and there is absolutely zero empirical evidence of this published anywhere, doesn’t make it a healthcare issue just because YOU say so. What’s worse is that literally YOUR only (non)argument is that YOU say it is.

It is NOT a healthcare issue. It never was. It is never going to be. It IS a Constitutional issue, which MAKES it a LEGAL issue, and from that stems an issue of guns for self-defense.

StevenTorrey
Guest
StevenTorrey

Even by your usual psychotic standards–your response is PSYCHOTIC! Trust me, shoot someone and that someone will require medical intervention of some sort. That there are yearly some 81,000 gun wounds, 10,000 deaths, 20,000 suicides–well–Excedrin you are simply blathering for the sake of blathering. A gunshot wound requires medical intervention…

Howard Nemerov
Guest

Except the CDC’s own data shows that states with the most gun control have the lowest gun ownership rates and the highest black homicide rates.

http://pjmedia.com/blog/states-with-stricter-gun-control-laws-are-less-safe/?singlepage=true

I know that’s a lot to digest, but I used to believe in civilian disarmament, being one of those progressive-type health professionals. But a law enforcement client suggested I do some research instead of accepting media propaganda.

So it appears that gun control, not firearms, is the true health care issue.

The 300
Guest
The 300

Comment # 300. A record?

Vik Khanna
Guest

It’s gotta be. Thanks to all my Second Amendment Compatriots for making it so.

David Phillips
Guest
David Phillips

Do we have an over/under on 400? 500? 🙂

Vik Khanna
Guest

I’m in for over 400 eventually.

SCSIwuzzy
Guest
SCSIwuzzy

“Here is how gun owners can thwart the push to have doctors ask about the presence of guns in a home during a routine history and physical: refuse to answer on the grounds of the much heralded penumbra-emanating right to privacy.”

I was asked this at my toddlers most recent physical… I said I didn’t have to answer this question. Nurse responded with “I’ll just put down yes then”. To which I asked her “How many dildos are in your home?” When she got flustered, I said “I’ll just put down many”

Vik Khanna
Guest

That’s a hilarious come back. I highly recommend its use.

Don Holder
Guest
Don Holder

I see it now. Laying on my proctologist table, as he does his thing, and asking me if I have guns at home. That’s government intrusion.

@BobbyGvegas
Guest

I’m fixin’ to get accused of “hijacking the thread.” Done here. We’ve beat this issue into its customary side by side burial plots anyway.

Later. Good post, Vik.