Nov 042013
 

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has published what it calls a fact sheet about “gun violence” among youth. DRGO has been informed that the Arizona Association of School Psychologists has submitted this flawed publication to the Arizona legislature in support of enacting firearm policy. DRGO’s Advisory Board member Glen Otero, PhD has analyzed the claims made in the NASP fact sheet and has determined that it’s full of the half-truths and deliberate omissions that the public health anti-gun advocacy literature is famous for.

Dr. Otero is a research scientist specializing in bioinformatics and high performance computing. He is a former rifle, pistol and shotgun instructor with Kent Turnipseed and NRA certified rifle instructor. Here is his analysis.

NASP’s Anti-Gun Agenda: Truths and Half-Truths

By Glen Otero, Ph.D.

Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO)

A Project of the Second Amendment Foundation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and medical journals like The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and The New England Journal of Medicine have been heavily criticized for promoting an anti-gun political agenda. (Wheeler, T., Public Health Gun Control: A Brief History, Parts I-III, www.drgo.us/?p=266 , www.drgo.us/?p=285 , and www.drgo.us/?p=314 , accessed June 16, 2013.)  The continual publication of CDC-funded gun violence studies that suffer from serious methodological flaws are responsible for this anti-gun bias. These flaws include:

1) Inventing, selecting and or misrepresenting data to support a priori conclusions

2) Omitting data and lack of citing criminological and sociological research into firearm violence and self-defense

3) Simply ignoring or discounting evidence inconsistent with one’s political prejudices

4) Stating overreaching conclusions and presenting associations and correlations as causation

As a result of their shoddy scientific methods, the journals and CDC are accused of holding ideologically predetermined conclusions and publishing dubious articles that perpetuate the fiction that guns are an infectious disease and that more guns cause more deaths. The idea that guns are an infectious disease like HIV is ridiculous. Despite a wealth of research there is no credible evidence that an increase in guns causes more deaths in the U.S. (National Research Council. (2005). Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review. Committee to Improve Research Information and Data on Firearms. Charles F. Wellford, John V. Pepper, and Carol V. Petrie, editors. Committee on Law and Justice, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, page 6).

I will provide some examples of how The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Youth Gun Violence Fact Sheet suffers from the very same methodological flaws and unscrupulous misrepresentation of the gun violence knowledge landscape that the CDC and public health literature are guilty of. For instance, in the section of the NASP fact sheet entitled “Firearm Deaths in the United States (CDC, 2012)” the murder and suicide statistics from a single year (2010) are cherry-picked from a slew of potential statistics and provided out of context without any trend data from the last 30 years.

Of the 1,982 youth (age 10-19) murdered in 2010, 84% were killed by a firearm. However, according to the same WISQARS CDC source the rate of murdered youths aged 10-19 has fallen from 4.64/100K to 3.89/100K from 1999-2010. (These and subsequent WISQARS data are taken from the WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports page at www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal_injury_reports.html and the WISQARS search page at http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate10_us.html, accessed August 6, 2013.

Of the 1,659 teens (age 15-19) who committed suicide in 2010, 40% were by firearm. However, according to WISQARS the rate of suicide with a firearm in teens 15-19 has fallen from 4.85/100K to 3.03/100K from 1999-2010.

Of the 1,323 males (age 15-19) who committed suicide in 2010, 45% were by firearm. However, according to WISQARS suicide with a firearm in males 15-19 has fallen from 8.4/100K to 5.32/100K from 1999-2010.

Of the 336 females (age 15-19) who committed suicide in 2010, 20% were by firearm. However, according to WISQARS suicide with a firearm in females 15-19 has fallen from 1.11/100K to 0.62/100K from 1999-2010.

In 2010, across all age groups (and including adults), there were 31,672 individuals killed by firearms (with 61% of these deaths being suicide and 26% homicide). According to WISQARS the rate of all individuals killed by firearms has essentially remained the same between 1999 (10.3/100K)-2010 (10.07/100K).

As we can see, the select reporting of statistics from a single year and age group without providing any trend data prevents the reader from putting things into context. The fact is that according to the same CDC data source cited by NASP, the rates of murder and suicide committed with guns in the reported groups have been in decline or remained constant from 1999-2010.

One example of criminological data omission is the non-reporting of firearm related statistics from the Department of Justice (DOJ). According to the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=31, accessed August 6, 2013), the number of all firearm related homicides declined 39% between 1993 and 2011 and nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69% during the same period (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fv9311.pdf, accessed August 6, 2013.). In fact, from 1980-2008 the rate of handgun related homicide dipped to its lowest point in 2008. (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2221, http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf, accessed August 6, 2013.)

Another example would be the omission of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) statistics on firearm related homicides. From 2003-2010 the UNODC reports that the percentage of homicides by firearm in the U.S. hovered around 67% while the rate of homicide by firearm per 100,000 persons declined nearly 16%. (http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/statistics/crime/global-study-on-homicide-2011.html, http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/homicide.html, accessed August 6, 2013.)

In fact, all violent crime rates are in decline. Data from the FBI’s 2011 Unified Crime Report (UCR) shows that the violent crime and murder and non-negligent manslaughter rates both fell 50% from 1992-2011 (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-1, accessed August 6, 2013.).The Bureau of Justice Statistics also reports that the homicide rate in 2010 had fallen to rates not seen since the mid-1960s. (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2221, http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf, accessed August 6, 2013.)

Furthermore, these statistics suggest that all gun related deaths are equal, which couldn’t be further from the truth. There are accidents, suicides and homicides. It’s been shown that most homicides are not committed by ordinary, law-abiding people, but are instead related to other criminal activity like drug trafficking and gang behavior. Without data from criminological sources to provide context it can seem that all violent crime, including gun violence, is currently increasing, when in fact it is in decline. This omission of critical information does not lend itself to reasonable, well informed policy decisions.

One number never tells the whole story in any field of research, and regardless of conclusions reached, shoddy scientific methods like the selective reporting of statistics, ignoring of contrary data and exclusion of reputable data sources like the FBI UCR and publications by academic criminologists are symptomatic of bias and uncritical thinking. While evident throughout the NASP Youth Gun Violence Fact Sheet, these disturbing practices are not at all confined to gun violence research and in fact are appearing at an alarming rate in many disparate fields of supposed scientific inquiry. Several instances of pseudoscience masquerading as robust science are diligently explored and debunked in Otto, Shawn Lawrence Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, Rodale Books, 2011; Mooney, Chris and Kirshenbaum, Sheril Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future, Basic Books, 2010; Specter, Michael Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives, Penguin Press, 2009; and Grant, John Denying Science: Conspiracy Theories, Media Distortions, and the War Against Reality, Prometheus Books, 2011.

Publications like the NASP Fact Sheet paint a very biased picture of gun related violence that prevents various stakeholders and policy makers from making well-informed decisions. Far from being a fact sheet, the report is actually a half-truths sheet intended to lead the reader to a predetermined conclusion that there is an insidious assault on public health perpetuated by the guns themselves.

What we really need is a knowledge sheet so that the public can be properly informed, educated and empowered to make sound policy decisions. A good start would be the suggested reading list at the end of this article. No scientific organization can claim to make a valid statement about firearms without incorporating what we already know from the mountain of firearm research that already exists.

Selected Bibliography

1) Wright, James D. and Rossi, Peter H. Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms, Aldine de Gruyter, Hawthorne NY 1986. This 247-page hardbound book was the analysis of extensive data collected from over 2,000 convicted felons in American state prisons. Funded by the National Institute of Justice, this massive and comprehensive study found numerous truths about violent criminals that fly in the face of gun control advocates:

a) Felons prefer large, well-made handguns as tools of their trade, not “Saturday Night Specials” or rifles of any kind. (page 180)

b) The people most likely to be deterred from getting a handgun by gun bans are not criminals, but poor people who have decided they need a gun to protect themselves against the criminals. (page 238)

2) Lizotte, Alan A. “The Costs of Using Gun Control to Reduce Homicide,” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, vol. 62 no. 5 (June 1986), pp. 539-49. Criminologist Dr. Lizotte, now the dean of the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY), brings before a scientific panel the novel idea that, like any policy, gun control has costs.

3) Kleck, Gary Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, Aldine de Gruyter, Hawthorne NY 1991. This 512-page book won the 1993 Michael J. Hindelang award of the American Society of Criminology. It offers analysis of the relationships between gun ownership, violent crime, and self-defense. His findings show that the average killer has a long history of criminal conduct, contrary to fashionable public health notions that anyone with a gun is a potential killer. He further found that most successful defensive gun uses are never reported to the police, the so-called “police chief’s fallacy.”

4) Kates, Don B., Schaffer, Henry E., Lattimer, John K., Murray, George B., and Cassem, Edwin W. “Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda?” Tennessee Law Review vol. 62 no. 3 (Spring 1995). A criminologist, a genetics and biomathematics professor, a Columbia Medical School professor, and two Harvard Medical School professors of psychiatry analyze the public health literature on firearms. They find numerous examples of bias, prejudice against gun owners, and just plain ignorance among prominent public health gun researchers.

4) Kleck, Gary and Gertz, Marc “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology vol. 86 no. 1 (Fall 1995). These two authors report the results of their large national telephone survey investigating defensive use of firearms. They found that “each year in the U.S. there are about 2.2 to 2.5 million DGUs [defensive gun uses] of all types by civilians against humans, with about 1.5 to 1.9 million of the incidents involving use of handguns.” (page 164)

5) Lott, John R. and Mustard, David B. “Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns,” Journal of Legal Studies vol. XXVI no. 1 (January 1997), University of Chicago Press. These authors studied violent crime trends over 15 years using county-level data from all 3,054 counties in the United States. They found that when state concealed handgun laws went into effect, murders, rapes, and aggravated assaults subsequently decreased.

6) Lott, John R. More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1998. This landmark book, based on Lott’s research referenced in the 1997 Journal of Legal Studies article, is now in its third edition, with analysis of new data.

7) Wellford, Charles F., Pepper, John V., and Petrie, Carol V., editors. Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review, Committee to Improve Research Information and Data on Firearms, Committee on Law and Justice, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC (2005). This National Academies of Science committee of leading scholars in criminology reviewed all the existing research on homicide, suicide, and firearms. They found that the existing research studies “do not credibly demonstrate a causal relationship between the ownership of firearms and the causes or prevention of criminal violence or suicide.” Their review was published in this 328-page book.

8) Mauser, Gary A., “Evaluating Canada’s 1995 Firearm Legislation,” Journal on Firearms and Public Policy vol. 17 (Fall 2005), Center for the Study of Firearms and Public Policy of the Second Amendment Foundation, Bellevue, Washington. Professor Mauser (Institute for Urban Canadian Research Studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia) examines Canada’s controversial and costly 1995 Firearms Act. This unpopular law vastly exceeded initial dollar cost estimates and has never been definitively shown to have reduced crime. The part of the law requiring registration of long guns (rifles and shotguns) encountered such widespread resistance that it was finally repealed in 2012.

—Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership Advisory Board member Dr. Glen Otero is a research scientist specializing in bioinformatics and high performance computing. Dr. Otero is a former rifle, pistol and shotgun instructor with Kent Turnipseed and NRA certified rifle instructor.

 

Kids and Antigun Hype

 DRGO News  Comments Off
Oct 222013
 

Like many people, doctors work to keep up with the torrent of new information in their field. One time-tested learning resource for doctors is the medical journal. In addition to general medical journals that cover a wide spectrum of new medical knowledge, most doctors regularly read at least one journal dealing only with their own specialty.

The American Academy of Pediatrics journal Pediatrics is the go-to learning resource for busy pediatricians. They depend on it to help them meet the challenge of caring for sick kids. This month, however, the editors at Pediatrics handed out a big dose of anti-gun hype, hoping their readers will swallow it whole with no fuss. The authors of this anti-gun article hardly even pretend to offer any new scientific knowledge of value. Instead, they follow a well-known technique of medical gun control advocates—KidsNAntigunHype.

KidsNAntigunHype can be defined as an article published in a scientific journal showing no new or helpful findings and designed to shock readers into mentally associating guns with the death of children. The article in the November 2013 issue of Pediatrics is “Gunshot Injuries in Children Served by Emergency Services,” by Craig D. Newgard, Nathan Kuppermann, and ten other authors including Garen Wintemute, a specialist in this type of political writing. The authors conclude “Despite being less common than other injury mechanisms, gunshot injuries cause a disproportionate burden of adverse outcomes in children, particularly among adolescent males.”

In other words, of all the ways children can be injured, gunshot wounds are one of the worst.  Did it really take twelve doctors studying 50,000 injured children (only 1% of them gunshot injuries) to arrive at that breathtaking conclusion? No, but those twelve doctors wanted their name at the top of a hit piece against guns masquerading as a serious scientific paper.

The nothingness of the paper is staggering. Readers looking for guidance will find only a flurry of statistics heavily larded with the turgid technical writing medical authors are so fond of. One can read with great concentration from beginning to end, parsing every word, only to be left with the uneasy feeling that that’s all there is. Because that really is all there is.

The authors even admit that

a) gunshot injuries in children are uncommon

b) gunshot injuries in children occur mostly in the 15 to 19 age group (83% of the sample they studied)

c) they did not determine intent in any of the gunshot injuries. In other words, the authors don’t know how many were crimes committed by gang-bangers.

As we warned earlier this year, we can only expect more KidsNAntigunHype in the future. It will be incumbent on all doctors to recognize it when it appears in their medical journals and to expose it to editors, colleagues, and their patients.

Aug 122013
 

By Timothy Wheeler, MD

Dave Workman over at TheGunMag.com recently uncovered a gun prohibitionists’ playbook prepared last year by Washington, DC public affairs consultants for use in gun control campaigns. One such campaign is a Washington state ballot initiative, I-594, pushed by the gun control group Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. The story got national buzz last week, with coverage in The Examiner, The Washington Examiner and the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto column.

The guide, titled “Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging” is notable for admitting in print what gun owners have long known—gun prohibitionists have no shame when it comes to pushing their cause. The cynical public affairs consultants advise gun control activists to take full advantage of mass shooting tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shootings, or high-profile incidents like the Trayvon Martin shooting to push for gun control. Here are some choice bits of what the authors call “effective messaging”:

·       “The truth is, the most powerful time to communicate is when concern and emotions [after a shooting tragedy] are running at their peak. While we always want to be respectful of the situation, a self-imposed period of silence is never necessary.”  In other words, don’t wait for families to grieve or the facts to come out before pointing fingers and pumping up the public’s emotions.

·       “Don’t assume the facts—and don’t wait for them.” After all, who needs facts like police reports or court evidence when you want to harness the power of negative emotions while they’re running high?

·       Don’t use the term “Stand Your Ground Law.” Instead call such laws “Shoot First” or “Kill at Will” laws.  This is not only a crass attempt to stir bad feeling toward these laws, but perpetuates the lie that they empower victims to become legal aggressors. Stand Your Ground laws simply codify longstanding case law that a person doesn’t have to retreat from a violent criminal attack in a place where he has a right to be. He certainly may retreat, but is not required to by law. This is not a new concept, but gun prohibitionists have latched onto it in an attempt to delude the public and weaken gun rights by calling for repeal of Stand Your Ground laws.

Safire’s Political Dictionary describes the ancient rabble-rousing political technique of waving a bloody shirt. He details how the technique was used in ancient Rome and on through the turmoil of pre-civil war America. It is a dubious method based on cynical exploitation of man’s less noble nature. It hides facts and reason, and it encourages anger and prejudice. But judging from this gun control playbook, gun grabbing activists and politicians apparently love it.

Jul 232013
 

By Timothy Wheeler, MD

With all the ill-will, misunderstanding, and downright meanness swirling around the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial I was glad to see this article in the Los Angeles Times today. The Times even managed to put aside its longstanding bias against gun owners—almost, anyway—to take a look at one of the NRA’s new public faces, Colion Noir. A hip young African-American attorney from Houston, Noir doesn’t fit the L.A. Times stereotype of American gun owners—“old, fat, white guys,” as Noir himself puts it.  Neither does perennial gun rights champion the Rev. Kenn Blanchard, who in the article defends Noir from predictable charges of “selling out to the white pro-gun establishment.”

Inadvertently displaying her own bigotry, Los Angeles Times writer Molly Hennessy-Fiske mused “perhaps Noir’s rise says more about the NRA’s acceptance of minorities than the group’s ability to woo them.”  I’ll bet this would be news to NRA Board of Directors member and NBA All-Star Karl Malone. As a Jewish woman dedicated to the right of self defense, former NRA president Sandra Froman would likely be surprised, too. I’ve been an NRA member since the 1970s, and I don’t recall seeing any checkbox for race, religion, or gender on the membership form. The NRA’s “acceptance of minorities” comes as a surprise to most mainstream media types, but not to the members themselves.

There are historical reasons that the American tradition of gun ownership is strongest among the descendants of the northern Europeans who settled much of America. But an enduring and transcendent benefit of being an American—whether your descendants came to these shores 12 generations ago as mine did or 3 generations ago as my wife’s did—is that the blessings of liberty belong to us all.  It’s been a long road since colonial America.  But here we all are in the 21st century, living in the greatest nation on earth. And prominent among those blessings is our natural right of self-defense, whether we live in South Central Los Angeles or Beverly Hills.

Jun 272013
 

By Timothy Wheeler, MD

A group of Wisconsin doctors is asking the American Medical Association to adopt a policy to advocate protecting the controversial practice of doctors interrogating their patients about guns in their homes. Here’s an excerpt from the story from Medscape (log-in required for the original story):

CHICAGO — Two proposals up for debate before American Medical Association (AMA) delegates seek to remove barriers to doctor–patient conversations in the exam room. One is a resolution proposed by the American College of Physicians Wisconsin Delegation asking the AMA to support an end to government interference in what doctors can discuss with patients. In Florida, for instance, the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, enacted in 2011, forbids doctors from asking patients whether there’s a gun in the house; the penalty for contravening the Act is a fine or loss of license. Barbara Hummel, MD, an alternate delegate from Wisconsin, told Medscape Medical News that allowing “the government to start telling physicians what they can discuss with patients — well, that’s crazy. We’re not against guns; that’s not the issue. We want to be able to provide some safety. We want to be able to talk to patients about whether they have guns in the house,” she added.

We’re not against guns? Really? Dr. Hummel needs to review some of the official policy of the organization she’s representing, the American College of Physicians (ACP).  The ACP earlier this year published with great fanfare a policy that, among other things, urges mental health screenings before gun purchases and banning “automatic and semiautomatic assault weapons”. Sorry, Dr. Hummel, people who visit their doctors know the difference between teaching gun safety and unethical meddling in their private affairs. And by the way, Dr. Hummel, what did you learn in medical school about “gun safety”? Did you take an NRA gun safety class? Did you get some gun safety training through Wisconsin Force, your state’s firearm association?

The AMA, once a powerhouse lobby for doctors, no longer represents American doctors. It has become its own highly lucrative business, independent of income from dues paid by its few remaining members. Typical of organized medicine, it is dominated by career technocrats advancing their pet causes. And gun control is at the top of the list. This AMA policy initiative, sponsored by the American College of Physicians, is just one more effort by two medical organizations dedicated to taking your guns away.

 

 Posted by at 10:36 pm
Jun 062013
 

By Dr. Timothy Wheeler, M.D.DRGO

The years 2011 and 2012 saw a rash of horrible high profile murders whose suspected perpetrators bore the striking common trait of serious mental illness.  In all cases—the Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass shootings, the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings, and the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords—the suspects were known in advance by their families or associates to be seriously disturbed.  Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes had even seen a psychiatrist, who properly reported her concerns about his instability to police.  But in all three cases our legal system failed to prevent the multiple murders of men, women, and children and the disastrous injury of a U.S. congresswoman.

In response to the shootings President Obama in January issued a list of executive actions (incorrectly described by some in the media as executive orders) officially directed at the problem of mass shootings by madmen.  In reality many of the actions are items long on the policy wish list of gun prohibitionists, and they have little if anything to do with mass shootings.  But several of the listed actions call for the legitimate goal of trying to prevent dangerously mentally ill people from obtaining firearms.

This week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is calling for public comments as part of their plan to revise federal law to improve reporting of people with the so-called “mental health prohibitor” of gun ownership.  As the HHS Proposed Rule document notes, federal law already prohibits those persons from possessing or receiving a firearm who:

1)  have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution

2)  have been found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity

3)  otherwise have been determined, through a formal adjudication process, to have a severe mental condition that results in the individuals presenting a danger to themselves or others or being incapable of managing their own affairs.

Most people agree that those inclined to criminal violence should not have guns.  Violent felons and people with homicidal or suicidal delusions are the categories at whom current laws are directed.  The federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) aims to detect both categories of prohibited persons at the point of sale prior to transfer of the firearm.  But the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) includes a privacy rule that provides severe penalties for many types of disclosure of personal health information.  In some cases this includes records of mental illness required by NICS reporting.

The HHS Proposed Rule under consideration intends to “creat[e] an express permission in the HIPAA rules for reporting the relevant information to the NICS by those HIPAA covered entities responsible for involuntary commitments or the formal adjudications that would subject individuals to the mental health prohibitor, or that are otherwise designated by the States to report to the NICS.”  The intent is to overcome obstacles to NICS reporting posed by the problematic HIPAA law.

The HIPAA privacy rule was enacted with the good intention of protecting Americans from disclosure of private information contained in their medical records.  But the threat of serious penalties for stepping outside the boundaries of the law has spread fear throughout the medical community.  Doctors, medical record administrators, and hospital officials have been systematically intimidated by the law’s threat of civil and criminal penalties.  Penalties for various categories of HIPAA violations include a $50,000 fine for each violation and imprisonment for more serious violations.  HIPAA’s vast reach includes a long list of doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and state and local health officials.  When the law was enacted medical groups and hospitals held training classes for doctors and nurses in how to comply with the complex law.

HIPAA’s unintended but entirely predictable effect was to complicate and limit appropriate communication of medical information to parties who had a valid interest in knowing it.  Doctors and nurses began to withhold information about medical emergencies from patients’ families, who were understandably outraged at being kept in the dark.  But given a choice between a family’s complaint and criminal prosecution, busy medical professionals chose the lesser of two evils.

Mental health records are the most sensitive kind of personal health information.  The keepers of these records jealously guard them as a matter of professional obligation.  The threat posed to them by HIPAA only reinforces their tendency toward protecting it from disclosure.  But the need for proper identification of dangerously mentally ill prospective gun owners is a legitimate public concern, and the political pressure to make it a reality must result in action.  Toward that end, the HHS proposed rule to modify HIPAA is a worthy objective.

Precautions must be taken in any such modification.  No disclosure to NICS of any medical information should be allowed unless it clearly establishes a prospective gun purchaser to be prohibited as described by law.  The opportunity for administrative overreach in denying NICS approval is great, given the tendency of some executive branch officials to deny gun ownership to as many people as possible.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health tens of millions of Americans suffer from mental illness each year, although many go without treatment.  Therefore mental health records in particular should be carefully secured against political attempts to stigmatize and disqualify a prospective gun owner with a psychiatric diagnosis that does not constitute a mental health prohibitor.

When possible, administrative remedies should be written into the rules to allow recovery of legal fees and other costs for persons whose constitutional right to own a firearm is infringed as a result of bureaucratic mistakes or undue delay.

All of this ignores the reality that any determined individual can obtain a firearm and use it to commit a crime, NICS and HIPAA and every other law notwithstanding.  But within the confines of imperfect law, it is reasonable to strive for amending HIPAA’s privacy requirements to allow the communication of mental health information to NICS when it establishes a prospective gun purchaser to be prohibited as described by law.

Timothy Wheeler, MD is director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.

May 312013
 

The public health gun prohibition movement has long used news of tragic deaths to stir up anti-gun sentiment. In this report from NBCNews.com, researchers from the anti-gun Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health announce their discovery that more than 90 percent of police officers who are murdered are killed with guns. Actually, the NBCNews.com article reads “killed by guns,” indicating the writer’s irrational fears around guns (see my May 29 entry on guns as evil talismans). Having pumped up her readers’ emotions with the thought of police officers being murdered, NBCNews.com writer Maggie Fox hammers away at the need to restore federal funding for research on prevention of “firearm violence.” Mainstream media, long-time cheerleaders for gun control, have been using “stories” like this for years to push for gun control.

The researchers profess innocence:

“David Swedler at Johns Hopkins University’s school of public health and Center for Injury Research and Policy, says he didn’t mean to wade into a political debate.

‘We approached this from an occupational health and occupational safety standpoint,’ Swedler said in a telephone interview. ‘We are looking to inform law enforcement officers about their workplace safety information, what hazards they face. We weren’t looking to write a political paper at all.’

But political papers are the only thing Johns Hopkins public health researchers write when the subject is guns.  Aside from not being a legitimate subject of study by medical researchers, police homicides have long been studied by the scientists properly qualified to study them—criminologists. As you can imagine, it’s no secret to police who the threats are. Their lives depend on knowing and neutralizing the lethal threats they face every day in their work. Their training includes learning how to recognize and deal with those dangers. The idea that medical researchers have much of value to teach them about police work is ridiculous at best. But this “study” does provide gun control advocates with yet another excuse to lobby for spending our tax dollars on junk science justifications for ever more gun control.

 Posted by at 11:11 pm
May 302013
 

This new national poll from Rasmussen finds that 43% of likely U.S. voters trust the GOP more than Democrats when it comes to gun control. Slightly fewer (41%) still trust Democrats more. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.

It wasn’t just dedicated and informed gun rights advocates who were shocked by the Democrats’ gun-grabbing rampage of the last 6 months. Many voters who don’t even know the issue thoroughly think the push for gun control has gone far enough. At the same time many voters are becoming concerned that government is becoming a threat to the American people. The Obama administration’s outrageous abuses of power now finally coming to light—IRS bullying, media reporter intimidating, and others too numerous to mention—cannot improve the public mood.

That all-out Democratic push for gun prohibition is still raging in the big states, and the court challenges will take years to resolve. For months we will see more headlines casting Obama and a large swath of Democrats in an unfavorable light.

The midterm elections are now 18 months away. And we know that midterms historically tend to favor the minority party. We may just see a correction in Congress that will make life less oppressive for gun owners.

 Posted by at 6:05 pm
May 292013
 

Gun-control activists sound desperate. They are now reduced to recycling failed old arguments to persuade Americans to give up their guns. The New York Times has dredged up depositions from a 15-year-old rash of unsuccessful lawsuits against gun manufacturers in an apparent attempt to embarrass or discredit the industry…read more here.

 Posted by at 8:37 pm
May 222013
 

Everybody’s got a gun blog these days. But imagine my surprise when I found this little tidbit about DRGO in, of all places, the New York Times. The NYT blog is titled The Gun Report, and its main contributor seems to be one Joe Nocera. The blog’s masthead describes Nocera as a business columnist, apparently the closest thing to a gun expert the NY Times could find. The blog entry is actually a rehash of a recent piece at www.thinkprogress.org , and it’s full of errors of fact and analysis.

Here’s my response to the entry in The Gun Report.

As director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO) I must correct some of Ms. Mascia’s [the author of this entry] errors above. DRGO is now a project of the Second Amendment Foundation, but was not formed by it. DRGO started out 20 years ago as a project of the Claremont Institute. The Institute’s scholars and staff remain our friends.

Second, DRGO was not formed specifically to discredit the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), although that surely would be a full-time job in itself. Our mission is to bring truth (real science, not junk science) to counter the public health anti-gun rights movement. That movement is much larger than the AAP.

Finally, it would be nice if Ms. Mascia or someone at your blog could actually address the points I made against Dr. Palfrey’s disgraceful, bloody shirt-waving CNN op-ed instead of copying and pasting an erroneous article from thinkprogress.org . I invite NYT readers to go to the primary source for information about DRGO, which would be our web site, drgo.us . My article on Dr. Palfrey is at http://www.drgo.us/?p=372 , and I stand ready to defend it.

Timothy Wheeler, MD

Director

Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership

A Project of the Second Amendment Foundation

 Posted by at 4:47 pm