Invasion of the anti-gun doctors

By Dr. Michael S. Brown
web posted April 2, 2001

Another new anti-gun organization is making a big media splash. Doctors Against Handgun Injury claims to be supported by thirteen medical associations representing two-thirds of the doctors practicing in the United States.

What they really mean is that the leaders of those associations offered their support without a vote of their membership. It is true that doctors do tend to be more anti-gun than most people, not because they treat firearms injuries, but because they come from urban areas and have little knowledge of the lawful civilian uses of firearms. The leaders of these associations, doctors who would rather play politics than practice medicine, are even more liberal and anti-gun than the general membership.

Doctors Against Handgun Injury brings nothing new to the gun debate. Their arguments, nicely laid out on their attractive website, are the same old mix of junk science and emotional appeals, but with a strange schizophrenic twist.

On the first page, one finds statements that invalidate the recommendations listed on subsequent pages. For example: "Public health problems are complex... Policies designed to focus on a single cause or a single solution are... doomed to failure". Why then the single minded focus on handguns and not drugs, gangs or swimming pools as sources of injury?

They further undercut their own agenda with statements like this: "As indicated throughout this document, there are gaps in our knowledge, often at very basic levels." One might think that doctors would feel constrained by a lack of knowledge, but not these doctors. They have obviously forgotten an important line from the Hippocratic Oath: "First do no harm." After honestly admitting they know nothing about which policies may or may not reduce handgun injuries, they go on to list seven actions that they advocate.

Five of them are warmed over gun control ideas which have either failed in previous incarnations or are impractical, like restricting sales of handguns to people who are at risk of harming themselves. They conveniently neglect to mention that this would require police access to mental health records, a policy that is vehemently opposed by most mental health professionals for obvious reasons.

The Brady Bill is praised as a good law that should be expanded. Proof of its efficacy is offered in the form of a study by Ludwig and Cook. Unfortunately, Ludwig and Cook concluded that the Brady Bill did absolutely nothing to lower the homicide rate and may have had only a tiny effect on suicide among older males. Even this possible effect is debatable, since older males have the highest rate of gun ownership and would be the group least likely to be affected by a waiting period. This is just one example of how the anti-gun doctors twist the truth to make their points, hoping that few readers will take the time to investigate their claims.

Given this sad exhibition of illogic and dishonesty, one might assume that Doctors Against Handgun Injury is an organization without any value beyond furthering the careers of certain doctors and draining excess funds from liberal donors. But hiding within the propaganda stream are two ideas that may have merit.

First, they suggest aggressive enforcement of current laws, something that almost everyone can support, at least if one ignores the harassment of lawful gun owners for unintentional violations of our 20,000+ overlapping, conflicting, and confusing gun laws.

They also advocate the creation of a national database to collect objective information about handgun deaths and injuries. Given the very poor data currently available, this is an excellent idea, but the data must be collected and impartially analyzed before public policy is formulated, something that seems obvious, but was somehow forgotten by the gun-phobic doctors in their rush to propose more anti-gun laws.

Should Doctors Against Handgun Injury be voted off the island? Perhaps not. Somewhere within that deceptive shell there are doctors willing to admit they don't really know how to reduce handgun injuries. This is a giant step forward for an anti-gun group. If those honest doctors can guide the organization in a search for scientific truth, perhaps real progress will be made.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and a member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws, available on the web at:

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