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AMA president admits bias on gun research

by Dr. Michael S. Brown

Dr. Richard Corlin, the new president of the American Medical Association, started his term with a bang Tuesday night. His inaugural address was devoted entirely to the issue of gun violence. Unfortunately, he simply repeated many of the myths and misconceptions that have burdened the gun control movement.

The only area in which he seemed to offer a new initiative was in calling for more research on the causes of gun violence. Although honest study is sorely needed, Dr. Corlin ignores the sordid history of gun research by the medical community.

During the early 1990's the anti-gun lobby developed the strategy of fighting gun violence as if it were an epidemic. Guns were likened to viruses that must be eliminated. Proponents of this theory were so dedicated and dogmatic that they turned their backs on ethical research practices and even the scientific method.

They knew in their hearts that guns were an unmitigated evil force in society and their studies were designed to prove this in a way that society could not ignore. Even if the resulting data failed to support the pre-planned conclusion, it was tortured into submission anyway and distilled into a memorable sound bite.

Most people remember the one that says you are 43 times more likely to be killed by a gun in your home than to kill an intruder. Not only is that factoid false, due to deliberately induced sampling error, but even if true it is useless. The basic thesis ignores the fact that guns are frequently used to ward off criminal attack without a shot being fired. Sometimes criminal intruders are shot at, but not hit. Sometimes they are hit, but not killed. This study has become the classic example of results-oriented research, or more simply, junk science.

Read any study that claims to examine guns as a public health menace and you will find a similar skewed logic, since researchers who subscribe to that theory have already made up their minds that guns are evil and do not wish to be bothered by inconvenient facts.

The leading instigator of these results-oriented, anti-gun studies is Dr. Arthur Kellerman. History will probably rank him, and now Dr. Corlin, in the same category as Trofim Lysenko, an infamous Soviet geneticist who brought politics into agricultural genetics, producing decades of crop failures and suffering for his people.

Some of this junk science was financed with taxpayer dollars through the Centers for Disease Control. When gun rights supporters objected Congress rightly cut off funding. The gun haters have been crying about it ever since and Dr. Corlin, who misses the point entirely, complained about it again in his speech.

The fact that Dr. Corlin is announcing his strong bias in advance destroys any hope for the honest and ethical study of this issue. He even offers us the emotional basis for his deeply held feelings. He states that a woman who worked in his office was killed in what seems to be a gang-related drive-by shooting in Los Angeles.

He does not say why he prefers to investigate gun violence rather than gang violence, but there is a standard explanation for this kind of tunnel vision. It is simply much easier to blame the weapon instead of the complex human behavior and societal influences that are the real causes of violence.

Most people who choose this philosophical path have little or no experience with the responsible civilian ownership of guns. Not surprisingly, Dr. Corlin says that he grew up in Newark where, he recalls, there were no guns. Thus it must be terribly difficult for him to understand why people might want to own them.

This mirrors, in reverse, the experience of many middle aged and older gun owners. They often relate how they grew up in areas where everyone had guns and even brought them to school, yet shootings of any kind were unheard of.

Americans should prepare for another junk science plague. It appears that the resources of the AMA are going to be devoted to a new campaign of Lysenkoism in the service of the anti-gun lobby.

Perhaps more AMA members will leave the increasingly politicized organization, but Dr. Corlin explains that the show must go on. He is dealing from a position of strength, since the AMA is no longer dependent on dues from its declining membership. Most of their funding comes from cozy outside deals such as producing expensive diagnosis code books which physicians are forced to buy if they wish to bill for their services under the current government-mandated standards.

Lysenko would be proud. He twisted science to promote a political agenda, and Dr. Corlin is preparing to follow in his footsteps.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and board member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws. His email is: His archives on the web can be found at


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Laws that forbid the carrying of arms disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and punishment (1764).

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