Madeleine Pelner Cosman
Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.
P.O. Box 270143
Hartford, WI 53027
Phone (800) 869-1884
Toll Free: (Orders Only) (800) 869-1884
Fax (425) 451-3959
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by Madeleine Pelner Cosman, Ph.D., Esq.
Many physicians fear and hate guns. They are part of a powerful international movement to medically eliminate weapons in America. Gun use in medical literature and in the media is described with medical metaphor. Not only is gun use compared to a disease, it is said to be a disease. Language of epidemiology describes it. Pediatricians, family practitioners, and public health physicians claim that guns are a public health menace. Physicians want to inoculate children against infection by violence. The doctors want to eradicate the pathogen and cure people of the contagion of guns. People who shoot guns are infected with a malady manifested in clinical signs of aggression and symptoms of gun violence. Guns are the toxin that destroys health and shortens life in inner cities. Urban morbidity and mortality are determined by infestation of these environments with handguns and predations of peddlers of cigarettes, illicit drugs, alcohol, and handguns.[i] Guns cause outbreaks of the contagious disease of violence. Medical intervention must eradicate the disease-causing organisms, the guns. The political intention is a world-honoring, violence-free nation. The medical intention is a gun-free America. [ii]
As a medical lawyer and medical school professor for 28 years, I defend America’s scientific medical excellence and its best, ethical practitioners. At first I laughed at the ridiculous exaggerations in medicalizing guns and the weird mistakes of medical metaphor for medical reality. But medicalizing is not innocent. Liberal activist physicians are hijacking medical language to promote a political cause. Against logic, they claim that guns are active pathogenic agents that cause violence, injury, and death. The American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics counsel their doctors to question their patients about any guns they keep in the home, where, and how, and to record the answers on the patient’s medical record. Physicians are encouraged to counsel patients to get rid of the guns.
What happens to that gun information? The new medical law called HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (first passed in 1996) requires in 2003 privacy and confidentiality measures that destroy both privacy and confidentiality. All medical records must be available for governmental Electronic Data Interchange. Gun questions are routine on kids’ 24 month exams, 3 and 4 year old child checkups. Has your doctor asked about your guns? What about your kid’s or grandchild’s pediatrician?
Wonderful Timothy Wheeler and Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, the Claremont Institute, honored by CRPA, are fewer in number than those convinced that guns are dangerous pathogens that hinder health. Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, agitating against the epidemic of gun violence. The Harvard Injury Control Center (HICC), founded in 1987, is one of eight federally supported injury control centers that researches gun-related deaths and injuries and creates interventional strategies to fight this health problem.
Doctors Against Handgun Injury (DAHI) is the New York Academy of Medicine’s new division dedicated to reducing firearms injury. This coalition of 12 clinical and professional medical societies representing 350,000 doctors, half of all licensed physicians, claims handgun injury as a public health problem, not just a criminal justice issue. DAHI encourages physicians to
- talk to patients about gun injury daily
- explain the strong link between handguns and suicide
- educate Congress on the critical needs for evidence-based legislation,
- speak out about inherent health risks of gun ownership and insecure gun storage.[iii]
They quote statistics for the Year 2000: 28,000 deaths from firearms plus twice that for non-fatal injuries. Of the deaths, 57% of all firearm-related deaths are self-inflicted and 56% of all suicides are committed with a firearm. DAHI encourages doctors to assess any patient’s risk of suicide and then to link that to questions about safer gun storage in the home. The DAHI brochure called Preventing Handgun Injury and Death: Guidelines for Clinicians outlines the potential public health interventions. Will doctors soon report their clinical findings of gun ownership to the police and write a prescription for removal of the guns?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta promotes and generously funds violence research. The CDC houses the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) that coordinates data from 10 states. DAHI helped it lobby for funds to expand data reporting to include records of violent deaths throughout the nation. Relative to the 80,000,000 gun owners and the millions of guns they own, remarkably few gun users have accidents. The number of fatal accidents in the year 2001 for people of all ages is 1,500, therefore .0000188 per gun owner.[iv]
The Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., created in 2001 a popular study entitled Deadly Myth: Women, Handguns, and Self-Defense.[v] It recommends that women not keep or use guns to defend themselves. The writers claim that women who own guns are more likely to die by gunshot than those who do not own guns. In 1998 for every time a woman used a handgun to kill in self-defense, 101 women were murdered with a handgun. Predicated on the idea that guns inherently hurt their holders, the study exemplifies faulty logic and statistical incomparability of the two contrasted groups.[vi] The plain meaning of valid statistics those authors ignored is that women who own guns and use guns for self-defense prevent four to five times the number of fatal gun attacks against women.[vii]
The American Medical Association publishes its Physician Firearm Safety Guide that reviews the epidemiology of firearm injury and death, and describes types of firearms and ammunition and their effects on safety. The Journal of the American Medical Association ran statistical articles on high costs of treating gunshot wounds.[viii] In 1994, injured people incurred lifetime medical costs of $2.3 billion dollars, half paid by taxpayers. The implication was that a civil society cannot afford such fiscal and human costs. The scientists left out the important point that during the same time period 1,500,000 people used guns to protect themselves from violent criminals. For every person wounded or killed by gunfire, five lives were saved by defensive use of guns.[ix]
Medical investigators are certain that the pandemic of gun violence requires eliminating the disease vector, the guns. The New England Journal of Medicine published essays on “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home” and “Protection or Peril? An Analysis of Firearm-Related Deaths in the Home.”[x] That otherwise venerable journal promoted the bogus conclusions that more gun-owners are murdered than those who never touch guns, and that defending one’s family with a gun is more dangerous than submitting to the criminal because “a gun owner is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder.” The physicians omitted available facts about defensive use of guns that prove that guns are many times more frequently protections than they are perils.[xi]
Medicalizing guns intentionally confuses a volitional social phenomenon, shooting a gun in self defense, with its occasional medical consequences in stopping, disabling, injuring, or killing an assaulter, robber, rapist, or murderer. Medicalizing guns makes bad law, junk science, and horrid medicine.
[i] Jeremiah Barondess, Towards an Urban Health Agenda: Journal of the New York Academy of Medicine (Summer, 1998), p.205.
[ii] John R. Lott, The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You Have Heard About Gun Control is Wrong (2003). See the voluminous publications of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, earlier called Handgun Control, Inc.
[iii]New York Academy of Medicine, Annual Report, 2002, pp. 12-13.
[iv]Senator Bill Morrow and his associate Trudy Thomas graciously reminded me about those figures. See Richard Poe, Seven Myths of Gun Control (New York: Crown, 2001); John R. Lott, The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You Have Heard About Gun Control is Wrong
[v] Violence Prevention Center considers gun violence a public health issue and wants to decrease firearm-related death and injury. The text is available at www.vpc.org and also at www.equitfeminism.com, www.drugfree.org/join-together, and www.banhandgunsnow.org.
[vi] The best analysis of statistical imperfections is available through Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, at www.JPFO.org. See the 1996 essay by Richard W. Stevens, “Disarming the Data Doctors: How to Debunk the “Public Health” Basis for “Gun Control,” www.jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/doctors-epidemic.htm Also see Peter J. Huber, Robust Statistics (New York: Springer, 1996). Peter William Huber’s Galileo’s Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom (New York: Basic Books, 1991) and Steve Milloy, Science Without Sense: The Risky Business of Public Health Research (Washington: Cato, 1995) and his and Michael Gough’s Silencing Science (Washington: Cato, 1998).
[vii] See Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns: Gun Control (New York; Aldine de Gruyter, 1997) and his Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1991); and John R. Lott, The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You Have Heard About Gun Control is Wrong (2003).
[viii] Timothy Wheeler, JAMA Strikes Again at Gun Owners, available at http://www.WorldNetDaily. August 12, 1999, and Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, The Claremont Institute, accessible at: http://www.claremont.org/publications/wheeler990811.cfm.
[ix] See Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns: Gun Control (New York; Aldine de Gruyter, 1997) and his Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1991); and John R. Lott, The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You Have Heard About Gun Control is Wrong (2003). For the necessity for Americans to depend on self-protection not solely on police protection, see Richard W. Stevens, Dial 911 and Die (Hartford Wisconsin: Mazel Freedom Press, 1999).
[x] A. Kellermann et al, “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home,” New England Journal of Medicine 1993: 329 (15) 1084-1091; A. Kellermann and D. Reay, “Protection or Peril? An Analysis of Firearm-Related Deaths in the Home,” New England Journal of Medicine 1986: 314: 1557-1560.
[xi] Miguel A. Faria, “Doctors and Guns,” 6:1 Medical Sentinel: Journal of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (Spring, 2001); Timothy Wheeler, JAMA Strikes Again at Gun Owners, available at http://www.WorldNetDaily. August 12, 1999, and Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, The Claremont Institute, available at: http://www.claremont.org/publications/wheeler990811.cfm ; D.B. Kopel, “Bad Medicine: Doctors and Guns,” in Guns: Who Should Have Them (1995).
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