Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons: Blame the people pulling the trigger, not the guns

Jane M. Orient, M.D.

Jane M. Orient, M.D.

Published in the fall 2013 edition of Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Jane M. Orient, M.D. pens an article in which she picks apart both the current and previous attempts to address gun violence as a health problem rather than a crime problem.

Orient starts by explaining how the “reliance on flawed public opinion surveys, misstatements about the current background check system, and use of emotional, inflammatory rhetoric belie the claim that the case for gun control is supported by ‘evidence-based medicine,’” when, in fact, she claims it does not.

She addresses the recent idea that gun violence should be treated, as the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has suggested, in the same manner as smoking, AIDS, cancer, and mainly motor-vehicle crashes, which have decreased after extensive research into their causes.

However, Orient points out that, “A major fallacy in the analogy between motor-vehicle crashes and shootings is that crashes are almost always accidental, and shootings almost always intentional. Thus, in the former the safety characteristics of cars and roads are highly pertinent, whereas in the latter the main issue is why a shooter decides to pull the trigger” rather than specifics of the firearm used, where it was obtained, or other such information.

While the Obama administration has allotted a massive $10 million for gun-related research in the 2014 budget, Alan Leshner, who acted as chair of the Institute of Medicine panel and National Research Council, claims that, “We have no political agenda.”

Experts determined that in order for their gun violence studies to be effective, more information is needed from gun owners, including, “basic information about gun possession, distribution, ownership, acquisition and storage,” adding that they need to know “the number of guns in private hands throughout the country—legally and illegally” in order to conduct accurate research.

However, some gun rights advocates feel that this is simply a way to create a national registry which will ultimately lead to confiscation.

Orient also argues that this type of information is not needed to accurately study and pinpoint the causes of gun violence, citing the research involved in reducing fatalities from car crashes.

“Traffic safety experts appropriately focus on things related to crashes, such as the center of gravity in sport-utility vehicles, but don’t concern themselves with how many cars there are, who owns them, or where they are kept,” Orient writes. “Gun violence researchers place a lot of emphasis on the guns and apparently have limited interest in factors related to violent behavior, aside from mental illness.”

She continues to point out other factors that should be studied – aside from the actual guns themselves – that could be possible motivators in the person actually deciding to pull the trigger. But those suggestions, which included the effects of violence on video games and television, were met with skepticism from the IOM panel and not considered a priority for research.

In fact, the panel even completely rejected the idea of looking into the “contribution of drugs, both illicit and prescribed, despite reports that many shooters were taking psychoactive drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).”

Furthermore, Orient points out that “government policy in the most lawless cities is not on the list of research priorities either.”

Orient then rewinds 20 years to 1993 and again in 1995 when the NCIPC had a “strategy conference” which the main goal was to “use a public health model to work toward changing society’s attitude so that it becomes socially unacceptable for private citizens to have guns.”

Dr. Katherine Christoffel, one of the founders of the conference, even stated, “Guns are a virus that must be eradicated. We need to immunize ourselves against them… Get rid of the cigarettes, get rid of the secondhand smoke, and you get rid of lung disease. It’s the same with guns. Get rid of the guns, get rid of the bullets, and you get rid of deaths.”

The CDC’s grant money was then used for questionable purposes, such as pamphlets and newsletters advising political activism and boycotts to help reach the NCIPC’s self-described goal of finding “a socially acceptable form of gun control” and to “convince Americans that guns are, first and foremost, a public health menace.”

Orient goes on to cite misleading CDC-funded research that is still used by gun control components today, which states, “For every self-defense homicide involving a firearm kept in the house, there were 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides, and 37 firearms suicides.” Only Orient then adds the obvious. “The purpose of the defensive use of firearms is to stop a criminal, not to shoot him… using only the body count underestimates the protective effects of firearms,” she writes.

Orient then explains that while it may appear that there is an epidemic of gun violence in the United States, gun homicides have, in fact, dropped nearly 50 percent since their peak in 1993. Additionally, the overall homicide in the U.S. is at an all-time low from the past 50 years.

Furthermore, although many have attacked his theory but none have yet refuted it, John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” “found that the introduction of concealed-carry laws reduced murder rates by about 8 percent, rapes by about 5 percent, and aggravated assaults by about 7 percent.”

Yet while studying various gun control laws put forth in a supposed effort to reduce violence, there has been nothing but “insufficient evidence” of the effectiveness of any such laws or combination thereof.

Orient then took a look at some of the possible causes of the reduction in gun deaths. One idea is that homicide rates have fallen as gun ownership has risen, in additional to greater law enforcement and more imprisonments. Other theories include decreased exposure to lead, which may adversely effect mental health, legalization of abortions, since unwanted babies are more likely to become criminals, and the aging of the population.

Additionally, Orient discussed the arguments surrounding background checks, and stated, “Forcing all private citizens to consult a federal agency before transferring a piece of property should face a much higher Constitutional barrier than requirements on those holding a privilege, such as a federal firearms license.”

She then explains that gun control advocates push for universal background checks simply as a safety precaution, claiming that 40 percent of firearms are purchased without a background check.

However, Lott writes in his book, “The 40 percent figure rounds up a claim that 36 percent of transfers were done without a background check, and that number came from a small, 251-person survey conducted two decades ago, from November 1991 to December 1994. That is the only study done, and most of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks, telling us nothing about background checks after the law.”

Additionally, without an accurate count of the number of firearms owned by Americans, such a figure is nearly impossible to accurately determine.

Orient concludes that through her own research she believes that not only is there, in fact, an underlying political agenda within the medical community researching gun violence, but that such an agenda’s end goal is confiscation.

Orient writes in closing, “Organized medicine’s decades-long campaign to have firearm-related fatalities considered as a public health rather than a criminal justice issue is not evidence based. Its reliance on weak, even tainted evidence and spurious reasoning, and its attempts to suppress or discredit contrary evidence, is consistent with a political agenda of incremental civilian disarmament.”

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