- If you were going to choose a team of experts to help
resolve the question of gun rights versus gun control, who would you pick?
- Your first choice should be a good criminologist; then
perhaps a police officer with extensive street experience. To analyze the
cost of gun violence and the cost of gun control, you would choose an economist.
An expert on the causes of suicide would be very helpful as would a skilled
statistician to sort through the various studies.
- You would probably not choose a doctor, yet a small number
of doctors have assumed a large role in the anti-gun lobby. Various trauma
surgeons, in particular, have asserted that their experience in treating
gunshot wounds makes them experts on gun control legislation. This is patently
absurd. You wouldn't ask advice on traffic laws from someone who repairs
damaged cars. There are experts who are trained to conduct scientific studies
and recommend new traffic laws when needed.
- Most doctors are predisposed to anti-gun thinking by
their urban liberal upbringing. Treating numerous gunshot victims may exaggerate
this existing mindset. Most Americans will never see a gunshot wound, but
some trauma surgeons see so many that they begin to view the world as overwhelmed
with gun violence. This skewed world view can result in a very human emotional
urge to "do something" about the problem of gun violence. This
same motive is commonly found in family members of gun violence victims;
since the real causes of human violence are so complex, they must lash
out at something simple like the type of weapon used. Doctors who treat
these victims may be responding in much the same way.
- Medical doctors who support political movements use their
credibility as medical professionals to lend weight to a particular cause.
This credibility comes from their training which teaches doctors to use
the scientific method to diagnose and treat medical conditions. When physicians
support a political cause, most people would assume that they are applying
the same standards.
- Unfortunately for these social activist doctors, all
reputable research shows that gun control laws simply don't work. To support
the anti-gun lobby, they must turn their backs on their scientific training
and give in to their personal bias.
- This awkward situation led some doctors to carry out
public health studies designed to produce anti-gun statistics. This is
known as "results-oriented research" or "junk science".
- These studies are distinguished by certain characteristics.
The anti-gun researchers frequently choose small populations or geographic
areas that they believe will produce the desired outcome. They ignore the
fact that guns are often used to deter crime without shots being fired
and they typically misrepresent the conclusions of earlier studies on which
they are basing their own research. Their statistical analysis is always
questionable and they sometimes refuse to make their raw data public to
avoid close scrutiny. Perhaps the most striking characteristic is the way
that the results are always turned into an anti-gun sound bite with an
outlandish number representing the harm done by firearms.
- The most famous of these studies is the one that declared
firearms to be 43 times more likely to kill someone in the home than to
kill an intruder. Like all of the anti-gun studies, this one has been dissected
by numerous people who delight in pointing out the way in which the data
were tortured to produce the desired results. A classic discussion of these
flawed studies is "Guns in the Medical Literature - a Failure of Peer
Review" by Edgar A. Suter, MD.
- This wave of criticism may be partly responsible for
some improvement in the quality of published articles. The Journal of the
American Medical Association, for example, recently published a study by
Ludwig and Cook which found that the much touted Brady Act had no effect
on the national homicide rate.
- Perhaps this marks a return to intellectual honesty that
will convince anti-gun doctors to take a more logical look at the problem
of gun violence. They should at least admit to the public and to their
fellow doctors that their opinions on gun legislation have nothing to do
with their medical credentials
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