False Medical Research and Gun Control

By Francis Mancini Providence Journal-Bulletin | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 21, 1995 | Go to article overview

False Medical Research and Gun Control


Francis Mancini Providence Journal-Bulletin, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The monthly Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia has been at it again, debunking the simplistic anti-gun propaganda that is so widespread in other medical periodicals.

The June issue was especially critical of those who expound on guns and violence as though these are matters of public health (e.g., bullets as "pathogens," guns as "viruses," gun control as "immunization") rather than topics best treated by specialists in law, criminology and related disciplines.

Let's turn directly to Dr. Edgar A. Suter et al., whose article "Violence in America - Effective Solutions" (complete with 98 footnotes) is the issue's centerpiece. A few highlights:

Some 40 percent of Americans report having guns in their homes. If possessing a gun were the direct or indirect cause of criminal violence, these 100 million or so Americans would be killing off their relatives, friends and neighbors. In fact, of course, they are not.

There are an estimated 1 million instances (from murder to robbery) of the criminal misuse of guns every year; they involve less than one-half of 1 percent of the 200 million guns owned by Americans.

A small fraction of those who possess guns - most of them illegally, by the way - commit the overwhelming proportion of gun violence. That problem will not be solved by the misguided efforts of those whose ultimate goal is to try to bar everyone - including the vast majority of law-abiding citizens - from legally owning guns.

In considering the costs of gun violence, anti-gun medical researchers start with the medical treatment of those killed or wounded. But they don't - and can't - stop there. These direct medical costs add up to about $1.5 billion a year, which is less than 1 percent of the nation's annual bill for health care.

So the anti-gun researchers inflate the figures through numerous computational gymnastics - including, in one case, a nonsensical estimate of the "cost" of workers wasting time on the job while they gossip about gun violence!

A more common add-on consists of the wages lost over the victims' lifetimes. This approach could be legitimate, but not the way the researchers do it. They assume that all the victims are basically ordinary citizens who would be busy working at productive jobs if they hadn't been gunned down. That certainly describes some victims, whose tragic deaths are among the reasons we need to get much tougher about criminals and the violence they inflict on law-abiding people.

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