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The AMA and Gun Control

The following was sent to Susan Landers, public health correspondent for AMedNews.com, at 12:17 PM on August 20th, 2001 - susan_landers@ama-assn.org

To: American Medical News
Re: "Target Prevention" by Kathleen Phalen (8/20/01) (http://www.ama-assn.org/sci-pubs/amnews/pick_01/hlsa0820.htm)

Unfortunately, the umbrella of "public health" cannot shield us from the damage associated with the entry of crusading physicians like Dr. Wintemute into the debate over gun control. As relative novices in the relevant fields of criminology, ballistics, history, and political science, physicians advocating increased gun control laws are practicing dangerously beyond their expertise. It matters little to most physicians to know that the NRA expectedly disagrees with Dr. Wintemute, but readers who want to know what serious criminologists think about the medicalization of gun control should at least read Guns and Public Health - Epidemic of Violence, or Pandemic of Propaganda?" from Tennessee Law Review (spring 1995:62:3) (http://www.2ndlawlib.com/journals/tennmed.html), wherein liberal criminologist Don Kates (et al) point out that there has been a striking lack of integrity in the "public health" literature on gun control, replete with distortion of data, flawed methodology, and when all else fails, complete fabrication of "facts."

"...CDC and other health advocate sages build their case not only by suppressing facts, but by overt fraud, fabricating statistics, and falsifying references to support them."

The factual errors and misleading statements made by Dr. Wintemute are so numerous that it would take an article longer than the original one in Aug. 20th's American Medical News (http://www.ama-assn.org/sci-pubs/amnews/pick_01/hlsa0820.htm) to list and rebut them all. Fortunately, many of them are addressed in Dr. Edgar Suter's "Guns in the Medical Literature - a Failure of Peer Review" which the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia dared to publish in a time when politically correct medical journals are blatantly anti-gun in their editorial policies (http://rkba.org/research/suter/med-lit.html?suter%20/%20first_hit). Suter shares Kates' scathing contempt of the "results-oriented research" so characterizing of the medical literature on gun control, where the authors bend or invent "data" to fit their agenda.

Although the editorial board of Guns and Ammo has so far had the integrity not to publish studies on the risks and benefits of antihyperlipidemic medications, several of the more prestigious medical journals have eagerly taken up the issue of gun control. Their bias is evident when generous editorial space lauds "crusading physicians" like Dr. Wintemute, sometimes with brief rebuttals from detractors, yet the equally demanding efforts of physicians like Dr. Wheeler of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (http://www.claremont.org/1_drgo.cfm) never seems to be featured or presented as positive, even though it could easily save far more lives.

When public policy is set by a handful of well-meaning but hoplophobic zealots, and the debate is presented to a public with a world-view whose horizon is often defined by MTV, Miami Vice reruns, and Oprah, it is all the more important to move the debate beyond the media's shallow sound-byte of "NRA vs. Soccer Moms." Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws (http://www.dsgl.org/links.htm) has assembled articles on gun control from the criminological and public health literature, and in an effort to educate readers, some of the more salient ones follow, several of which address invalid assumptions made by proponents of additional gun laws.

Since the "global perspective" was included in the article featuring Wintemute, readers should know that on an international level, David Kopel has published extensive research showing that it is only through hand-picking specific countries and time frames that any correlation between tough gun laws and low crime or suicide rates can be alleged (http://i2i.org/CrimJust.htm). If looked at honestly, suicide rates vary mostly by culture, and demographics, but gun laws exert no effect other than minor changes in the method used, without affecting overall deaths. Violent crime rates also vary culturally, when gun control laws are "toughened," crime rates nearly always increase, even if previously on the decline. As far as the "5,000 violent deaths" mentioned in the AMN article, which presumably are the ones causing recent hand wringing at United Nations, Dr. Wintemute would do well to check out at whose hands most of these deaths occurred. As R.J. Rummel points out, genocide kills 5 to 10 times more innocents than criminal use of firearms (http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/welcome.html), and Jay Simkin documents that genocides have always been preceded by the seemingly innocuous step of "gun registration" (http://www.jpfo.org/L-laws.htm). In the past 100 years, countries with strict gun control have had an average of well over 4,000 citizens per day murdered by their own police and military, and for all this carnage, there is no offsetting beneficial effect documented for gun control laws - in fact researcher John Lott has pointed out some compelling evidence that gun control laws may actually increase domestic crime rates (http://www.tsra.com/LottBook.htm), and Kopel's St. Louis Law Review article, Peril or Protection? - The Risks and Benefits of Handgun Prohibition supports that conclusion (http://www.constitution.org/2ll/2ndschol/63perilo.htm).

The risk/benefit analysis of gun ownership is not new; our nation's founders saw it as but one facet of the timeless and all-important balance of power between government and citizen. Many physicians, who hopefully spent more time studying physiology than history, dismiss the Second Amendment as either archaic, protecting only State's rights, or referring only to firearms with "legitimate sporting use." In order to understand the jurisprudence of the Second Amendment, Halbrook's George Mason Univ. Law Review (http://www.2ndlawlib.org/journals/haljuris.html), and the works of Stephen Halbrook (http://www.stephenhalbrook.com), including the U.S. vs. Emerson briefing (http://www.stephenhalbrook.com/ami-bri.html), are excellent and well referenced, and many other Second Amendment scholars have published on this topic in the journal literature (http://www.2ndlawlib.org/journals). With military-style "assault" rifles having been easily available in the U.S. for a hundred years, yet comprising a relatively minor fraction of criminally misused guns, and with their inherent tendency to wound, rather than kill (as would the average hunting rifle), there is no reason for a legitimate government to seek limitations on their ownership, or create a dangerous-in-the-wrong-hands registration "hit-list" of their owners.

While the medical literature accepts the "if it saves but one life" motivation of misguided physicians like Dr. Wintemute, physicians who strongly oppose increased gun control are often asked why they won't compromise. My own motivation is a poster of the First Million Mom's March, which wouldn't have been possible without the "reasonable" step of merely registering guns (http://guntruths.com/Resource/Posters/1st_million_mom_march.htm).

Sincerely,

Andrew Johnstone, RPh/MD
Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws
http://www.DSGL.org


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