An email exchange between a DSGL doctor and an anti-gun physician.
An email exchange between a DSGL doctor and an anti-gun physician.
This email archive is offered to our visitors as an example of the kind of conversation that DSGL docs sometimes have with anti-gun docs. We are not afraid of fair and honest debate. We even invite you to visit some of the included anti-gun links and see if those organizations will respond to your polite emails. (Good luck.)
It begins with a message that came in to our “comments” mail box:
Please visit www.psr.org. [Physicians for Social Responsibility] There, you will find information which refutes many of the points you and your colleagues make within your website. Although many of your points make some intuitive sense, I note the distinct contempt for the “gun control freaks”. I am a Physiatrist in [city withheld]. I have cared for many inner city youth who have been victims of spinal cord or brain injuries, not because of any criminal activity, but because of their often inescapable proximity to it. How can the “gun romantics” step up to the plate in a responsible collaborative way with inner city and suburban anti-violence coalitions in order to draft effective policies and procedures to reduce inner city violence. All too often, I see the apparent ignorance of this issue. Where are the compassionate conservatives in the dialogue of how to solve this problem (without infringing on your rights) given the paucity of resources, education, and capability of many of our urban brothers and sisters.
You will note that the facts that are cited by Physicians for Social Responsibility are substantiated by peer reviewed journals. This is REAL science, not junk science. Please note that Dr. Blank’s page and Powerpoint slide presentations include reference lists, NONE of which is from a scientific publication. WE both know that one can take tangentially related facts and spin them into an argument. Peer reviewed editorial boards prevent this phenomenon from occurring, as you very well know, doctors.
Are there women and minorities enrolled in your organization? I see no mention of any non-white, non-male name.
How does your organization propose to limit criminal access to firearms? Why not background checks at gun shows (even instant)? Why not one gun per month to prevent straw purchase and gun running (which has been proven over and over to be responsible for flooding poor, crime-ridden communities with guns)? Why not hold the legal purchaser responsible for a crime by placing serial numbers in several places of a gun so it can be traced? Why not force the ATF to relinquish the stats on prior ownership instead of burying them (just ask the US Attorney’s Office in Philly if this is true).
Visit www.silentmarch.org. Visit www.firstmonday2000.org. Let me know what you think. Take a neutral view instead of one spun from the motives of the NRA to have as many guns bought as possible to get the manufacturers rich.
One statistic. Only 3.5% of gun homicides are characterized as “justifiable.” 60% of these are by Police Officers. I am concerned with the accidental, illegal, and preventable homicides which are not justifiable. There are many statistics from the FBI Crime Reports, to the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, to the ATF, to the Centers
for Disease Control. Most of the stats point to the fact that guns are erroneously considered protective. Some may quote that brandishing guns prevent hundreds of thousands of crimes per year. Where are all of the self-defense homicide statistics where law-abiding citizens are killing the “bad guys?”
You would intuitively think that if guns are truly protective, there would be more of these incidences.
4000 kids between 10 and 14 are dying each year. 33,000 people are being killed each year. Long guns are NOT the problem. Very few mishaps occur among hunters. The semi-automatic weapons and handguns are the culprits. Who needs to hunt with a Tech9? Mac 10? Do you think that law abiding citizens need to walk around with semi-automatics to protect themselves?
I look forward to your responses.
Response from DSGL’s Andrew Johnstone, RPh, MD:
>One statistic. Only 3.5% of gun homicides are characterized as “justifiable.” 60% of these are by Police Officers.
Several points come to mind. First, you MUST NOT assume a “linear” reduction in homicides of justifiable and unjustifiable types would occur with more stringent gun control laws. Even in the most basic analysis, it should be obvious that the criminally-intent individuals have a very inelastic demand for firearms, which will NOT be highly affected by any gun control law, whereas the homeowner, hunter, or other honest gun owner does tend to obey such laws. Thus, even if you assume that about 1 in 50 homicides (say 20 of 1000) is “justifiable” – you may drop the 20 down to 5, yet only drop the 1000 down to 990 – not exactly the intended net impact.
Secondly, remember that homicide perpetrators and victims are far from a representative cross-section of society, and about 80% of the perpetrators have prior felony convictions, and 60% of the victims do. To assume this subset of the population will behave the same way as some suburban professionals would is naive, to say the least; witness the same general subset as to their behavior regarding assault, illicit drug use, and so forth.
Before physicians “dabble” in the firearms-and-public-health issue, we need to be very aware that our ignorance of sociology, criminology, history, ballistics, and a host of other pertinent issues (simply working in an E.R. and treating gunshot wounds does not a criminologist make, whether or not you are intelligent, sensitive, or “care” a lot!)
>There are many statistics from the FBI Crime Reports, to the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, to the ATF, to the Centers for Disease Control.
Please realize that the CPHV is an advocacy group in the extreme sense. You probably would be highly skeptical of “data” espoused by the NRA, or even endorsed by them, despite their being rated by Congressional Digest in the 1970′s (along with the American Library Association) as one of the two most consistently truthful lobbying organizations – let a little of that healthy skepticism put the reins on your acceptance of CPHV “data.”
The CDC is not much better – I think I sent you Kates’ and Suter’s article links; to cite CDC data without familiarity with Kates or Suter’s critiques is analogous to the folks who believe vaccines are some sort of mind control plot because they read it in some tabloid quoting “government data.” FBI and ATF data was until the mid-60′s fairly unbiased, but as the agencies both became increasingly politicized, they started to collect data more selectively in a clear manner of bolstering certain legislation.
>Some may quote that brandishing guns prevent hundreds of thousands of crimes per year. Where are all of the self-defense homicide statistics where law-abiding citizens are killing the “bad guys?” You would intuitively think that if guns are truly protective, there would be more of these incidences.
You would intuitively think that turning up the oxygen on Uncle Harry would be good for him, if he is dyspneic, but hopefully as a physician, you’d veto that “intuitive” action on the part of some family member, despite their genuine concern. The difference is that the family would probably acknowledge your expertise in the area, even if they didn’t fully understand your explanation of the complexities of the “hypoxic drive” phenomenon.
Physicians who emote so strongly about the bullet wounds we see in the E.R. seem almost arrogantly reluctant to acknowledge the greater expertise of criminologist, sociologists, ballisticians, and so forth, as if our M.D. somehow gives us some inherent knowledge which supersedes that expertise. We don’t listen, and just like Uncle Harry, our arrogant ineptitude and intrusion into what is not an area of our expertise causes the loss of life.
Errant public policy on gun control causes many deaths each year; it is almost humorous to see intelligent physicians bemoan the “30,000 lives” affected by guns, then blithely assume that we can “tinker” all we want, with no risk – that is like allowing some guy to administer chemotherapy because he has a permit to use chemicals in his home photography lab!
> Who needs to hunt with a Tech9? Mac 10?
Two problems there. First, you make the mistake of assuming that the only people who object to gun control laws are hunters – though we tolerate thousands of deaths and crippling injuries each year for the yuppie-approved “sports” like skiing and bike riding, suburban physicians assume we shouldn’t tolerate a similar level of injury or death for the mere sport of hunting. I’m not sure that is a very culturally-open-minded view, but it isn’t really the point.
The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting, or even self-protection, any more than the First Amendment is about poetry and shopping lists; both are meant to protect politically significant things as they affect the crucial balance of power between the citizen and government. Again, I’m not sure where physicians come off “interpreting” the Second Amendment (would we like historians to interpret the PDR?), much less disagreeing with it, but if one does disagree, amending the Constitution is the only legitimate way to approach it – we can’t just ignore laws we disagree with.
To be politically significant in this sense, firearms would have to have enough firepower that when possessed in widespread and anonymous fashion among the general citizenry, it would deter the creation of a police state. No, that doesn’t require bombs and rocket launchers, but hand and shoulder firearms fill that role easily. You have to admit that if everyone in the U.S. had a Tech9, it would be hard to oppress them (as opposed to simply killing them, which would not accomplish the goals of a tyrant).
>Do you think that law abiding citizens need to walk around with semi-automatics to protect themselves?
If you get an intra-abdominal infection, do you NEED broad-spectrum antibiotics? Maybe not, but if your life is at stake, you’re going to want all the “firepower” you can get. Citizens engage in far more instances of self-defense than most police officers, and it is hard to make any rational case that their firearms needs would be much different.
I strongly suspect you know little enough about firearms that you were unaware that “semiautomatic” firearms have been around for over a century, were available by mail order until 32 years ago, and are generally less powerful than their “sporting” counterparts, and more likely to wound than kill. It is hard to imagine that our currently disgraceful crime rate that is so much higher than the 1950′s is due to “easy availability of semiautomatic guns” when teenagers could legally buy them from mail-order catalogs back then…use a little logic before you hop on a “cause!”
I respect your “genuine concern” – to a point, just like I respect Uncle Harry’s nephew wanting to crank up the oxygen. However, I lose respect for that nephew if he keeps trying to turn up the oxygen time and again every time my back is turned. He either needs to realize his lack of expertise in the area, and back off, or he’d better do a hell of a lot of reading so he can at least speak to me with a level of knowledge good enough to make me take his opinions seriously. With all due respect – I feel the same way about anti-gun physicians.
Here again is some of the most basic and essential reading material if you expect to gain a working knowledge of this issue. I hope you do, because I’m NOT doing this to protect hunting or some other idle pursuit – real lives can be saved if we can resist the temptation to put symbolism before substance in the gun control debate.
Kates’ “Guns and Public Health” article from the Tennessee Law Review,
Suter’s “Guns in the Medical Literature” from the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia,
Kopel’s St. Louis University Public Law Review article,
If you REALLY care about the murders, accidents, and children as much as you say you do, you need to read all the above, and more. Then you’ll understand the passion of DSGL.
Andrew Johnstone, RPh/MD
Next email from the anti-gun physician:
Can you please explain why a gun-loving homeowner who heard a drunk out on his stoop chose to pump him full of lead? 7 shots into him when he was only a nuisance.
Your analogy about hypoxic drive is an interesting one, yet I feel, impertinent. If anyone kills someone with a gun, justifiably or not, (unless he/she buries him/her outback) the police crime reports should reflect the occurrence (unless there is a bias in reporting). Therefore, why wouldn’t we see many more “successes” by “an appropriately armed populace” in killing the “bad guy?”. I’m sure the media would feast on these episodes in the papers or on TV as they love to report murders. I can’t say I have seen a report of more than ONE of these incidences nationwide.
What conservative opportunist on the board of the American Library Assoc. endorses the NRA platform? Who qualified that organization as consistently truthful, and where is that “scientific conjecture” reported?
It seems that you support the elimination of all gun safety laws. Would you support the individual gun owner “law abiding citizen” to handle him- or herself (in self-defense or whatever circumstance like killing someone well-known in the heat of an alcohol or drug induced frenzy when the gun is readily available), in the name of preservation of his/her rights, by taking the law into his/her own hands? How is this law-abiding? Exactly, by what law would they be abiding?
Why are you so paranoid about the creation of a police state? Is there any indication that we, in this country, have even come close to the development of this sort of situation in the last 100 years? It seems incredible that you would prefer citizens (often compelled by rage or confusion) to have power over the tyranny of state (arguably compelled by profit motives too frequently, yet for the most part constitutional, yet rarely approaching tyrannical behavior) by arming them all. What about the guy who lost $150,000 in the stock market, got pissed, and mowed down 7 employees with a semi-automatic before he shot himself? What about the guy in San-Francisco who freaked and shot a dozen or so arbitrarily on the street? With episodes like this, how can you justify having MORE guns around when on SO MANY OCCASIONS, we hear in the news (perhaps you would suggest the media is a set of liberal organizations NEVER willing to report on these self-protection scenarios you describe) people snapping and taking innocent lives? The court system chooses to protect the rights of the individual from the tyranny of the state by stating that he/she is innocent until proven guilty. It seems that these innocent bystanders aren’t afforded that same luxury.
THEY are the law-abiding citizens whose rights I and many other “liberal radicals” want to protect …. from “gun-romantic’s” psychotic rages.
What were they guilty of which had them get shot by people who are “armed to protect themselves from criminals”? Yeah….you are “right” …. we need more guns. Perhaps, if everyone on the street were carrying a semi-automatic, they could have killed the freak. But then, who next would be a freak worthy of righteous assassination? Whose judgment criteria would redefine “justifiable?” Do you really believe, when humans are
just that, human, and often get despondent and hopeless, that self-control will prevail in all circumstances, even with the best firearm training programs?
Remember the Hippocratic Oath, Doctor? Above All Else, Do No Harm! Handguns harm people. Long guns hunt. Let’s hunt animals (for survival and not sport) and not people. One could argue that I am woefully uninformed and poorly read on the bibliography that you deem to represent the body of knowledge by which we should all live our lives. I speak of ideals and portray a world of peace, not murder. I’ll get busy reading. Please invite your colleagues to get busy gaining compassion for the people who don’t have the resources to work out their problems for themselves. There MUST be
more peaceable solutions to the plight of the psychosocially challenged than simply arming society against them or locking them up like animals and throwing away the key.
We both agree that it is the education and support of youth in developing the skills necessary to have a successful future. Often, their parents are not equipped to do this themselves. They may even paradoxically expose them to the problems that we are trying to have the kids avoid. But it is in the domain of love and attention which gets them through, not having separativeness and protectionist-induced gun acquisition for citizens where the answers lie.
Next email from Dr. Johnstone:
> Therefore, why wouldn’t we see many more “successes” by “an appropriately armed populace” in killing the “bad guy?”.
Please realize gun owners in general are not quite that blood thirsty; you see on TV the guy who shoots through a door, which under almost any circumstance would be UN-justified, but you don’t see on TV the thousands of cases where the gun is merely displayed or used to give teeth to a “leave me alone and go rape/rob/assault someone else” plea.
> What conservative opportunist on the board of the American Library Assoc. endorses the NRA platform? Who qualified that organization as consistently truthful, and where is that “scientific conjecture” reported?
The ALA didn’t endorse the NRA platform, though I do personally know several very pro-Second-Amendment librarians; it was the ALA and the NRA who were both cited by the publishers of Congressional Digest (who I believe is the Library of Congress) as the two most “consistently truthful” lobbying organizations. You seem surprised that an organization could be “truthful” and yet have a platform you disagree with – I’m not sure why.
> Would you support the individual gun owner “law abiding citizen” to handle him or herself (in self-defense or whatever circumstance like killing someone well-known in the heat of an alcohol or drug induced frenzy when the gun is readily available)
I think you’ve been watching too much television, my friend – with a culturally narrow world-view based more on Miami-vice reruns than on reality, it is going to be difficult to form sound public policy. You seem to accept the “crime of passion” concept whereby an ordinary person is somehow transformed into a lethal killer merely by the presence of a gun. If you’d look more closely at the data, you’d see that “ordinary people” don’t kill others very often – murder by “friend and acquaintance” is more commonly a habitual violent criminal or stalker who finally kills a competitor or victim he’s met before (thus meeting the definition).
As far as my being “against all gun safety laws” – I’m against all laws which cause more harm than good, and when we ALREADY have laws against murder, whether the murderer is intoxicated or not, and whether armed with a gun, knife, club, or fist, there is not any additional benefit to some separate “feel-good” law against gun murder, and criminologists can explain reasons that such laws are often actually counter-productive. We also have laws which adequately address the accidental death or injury situation, again regardless of the instrumentality.
You seem more preoccupied with fighting gun ownership than doing anything truly constructive to reduce crime, violence, or accidents.
> It seems incredible that you would prefer citizens (often compelled by rage or confusion) to have power over the tyranny of state (arguably compelled by profit motives too frequently, yet for the most part constitutional, yet rarely approaching tyrannical behavior) by arming them all.
This “incredible” state of affairs is the way things were for the first 180 years this country existed, and after the dramatic increase in gun control laws of the past few decades, we’ve seen a predictable escalation of crime and violence. If that domestic evidence isn’t at least enough to give you pause in your rush towards firearms prohibition, how do you reconcile the experience of other countries which HAVE become police states?
You seem petrified by the 20 or so firearms murders our country experiences each day, yet totally unmoved by the 4,500 or more innocent deaths each day which are committed by police and military against their own citizens in those other countries.
I hope your apparent insensitivity is merely a na?ve conviction that “it can’t happen here” rather than the kind of ethnocentric attitude which seems endemic in urban-anti-gun-professionals.
> Is there any indication that we, in this country, have even come close to the development of this sort of situation in the last 100 years?
I don’t think the Japanese interred in the 40′s, the blacks experimented on in the 50′s, or the students at Kent State would be quite as secure in that opinion, but I do agree that Kent State wasn’t exactly Tiananmen Square. I do wonder, however, how close we should get to that very dangerous and irreversible political situation (a police state) before we exercise caution. The number of lives at stake so dramatically dwarf those affected by gun crime that without some demonstrated benefit unattainable by other means (and “demonstrated” doesn’t mean the arm-chair theorizing of a bunch of physician ignorant of the most basic history and firearms issues), that I don’t think advising caution before blindly endorsing “common sense” gun regulations is exactly “paranoia.”
> What about the guy who lost $150,000 in the stock market, got pissed, and mowed down 7 employees with a semi-automatic before he shot himself?
First off, you might want to get over your obsession with “semi-automatic” guns – they have been around for a hundred years, and are a lot less likely to kill (military guns are designed for the tactically more advantageous goal of wounding) than if he had used an ordinary hunting rifle.
Secondly, the people in that office were ill-advised and too stupid to know it – they actually believed that some symbolic legislation and a “no firearms policy” in the personnel manual would protect them. That sounds like the kind of advice you’d endorse – and it got them killed. You actually want me to stand by why you give more of that kind of advice to public policy makers? Maybe some “extra” tough law against say, guns with black and scary stocks? Get real! The ONLY thing that would have helped those people was if one of them (or more) had been armed, like responsible adults tend to be in OTHER places.
In your cowboy-movie state of mind, I’m sure you somehow envision that would lead to “more death” – but I challenge you to show any evidence it has. Mass murders like that ONLY happen in places where the victims are unarmed, either due to personal preference (which I think is fine), corporate policy (which is not, since “no-gun” workplace policies endanger lives (or at a MINIMUM, don’t protect them), or legislation (which is wholly inappropriate).
> Do you really believe, when humans are just that, human, and often get despondent and hopeless, that self-control will prevail in all circumstances, even with the best firearm training programs?
The point is, if you’ve been living anywhere but television fantasy land, such self-control DOES prevail; obviously not in all circumstances (despondent people kill with cars, knives, and fists – in fact, FBI crime data I’ve seen cited more murders with “hands and feet” than with semiautomatic rifles). The idea is to minimize innocent lives lost, remember? If you could institute some draconian gun law and reduce the murder rate, fine, but how many lives would it COST? Don’t you care, or are you simply willing to ASSUME it would be a net saving of lives, just because you “care?” Some of the rest of us also care; only we are willing to become informed before trying to change public policy.
> Remember the Hippocratic Oath, Doctor? Above All Else, Do No Harm! Handguns harm people.
Just for the sake of argument, if you pushed through a gun law of some sort, and it clearly led to more innocent human lives lost, wouldn’t that be harm? I think it would! And our own nation’s history is filled with clear examples where gun laws have backfired and caused more lives to be lost. Do you really not care? Again, I think your irrational
HATRED and FEAR of guns and/or gun owners is causing you to push for detrimental social policy!
> But it is in the domain of love and attention which gets them through, not having separativeness and protectionist-induced gun acquisition for citizens where the answers lie. There MUST be more peaceable solutions to the plight of the psychosocially challenged than simply arming society against them or locking them up like animals and throwing away the key.
Maybe I needed to hear that – you are stereotyping me and my fellows as empty of compassion, love and understanding, and I must say I RESENT that…however perhaps I am stereotyping you in some of the above comments. I do hope, however, that you broaden your cultural view, not only to include the many ghetto and underprivileged people, but to see the world from the eyes of others.
I do a lot of counseling of rape and assault survivors, and they are gentle, loving, and trusting individuals, all of whom would give a hand, a donation, and so forth, and who in many cases do MORE than other people charitably and for the downtrodden.
One of my patients left her job as a teacher (due to the “gun free schools” law and the fact that she wished to have a firearm in her car since she had to travel through very dangerous neighborhood to go to/from work and had decided not to get raped a second time). She now works at a church-run shelter, volunteers at a free clinic (where I’ve donated thousands of dollars of equipment), and is a March-of-Dimes coordinator. Pretty damned charitable and loving. If you beg her for money, she’ll give, if you need a shoulder, she’ll give – but if anyone tries to sodomize her at knifepoint in front of her children, and tell her she deserves it because she’s just a “******” again – she will resist, even if that means killing them. If that makes her a “violent gun-nut” to you, then I guess you’ll never be able to cross that cultural divide.
If you met her, you’d cheer her as one of those disadvantaged people who triumphed over great odds when growing up, and became one whose compassion and love in turn is now helping others, but I doubt she’d agree with ANY of your (laudably) idealistic but ill-informed and dangerous dabbling in gun control policy.
Gun control has never led to Peace, but only to increased crime, violence, and worst of all – genocide.
Andrew Johnstone, RPh/MD
The Second Amendment IS Homeland Security !