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, , , and , 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 and the WISQARS search page at, 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 (, 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 (, accessed August 6, 2013.). In fact, from 1980-2008 the rate of handgun related homicide dipped to its lowest point in 2008. (,, 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%. (,, 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 (,, 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. (,, 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

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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.

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.

Oct 222012

By Timothy Wheeler, MD

With the expected mainstream media promo, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released the new edition of its firearm policy, “Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population.”  The usual media supporters of gun control didn’t disappoint.  Check this article from Reuters, which didn’t even bother with a perfunctory balancing response from the Second Amendment Foundation or the NRA.

But that’s OK.  The American public is much more educated about firearms than they were in 2000, the last time the AAP concocted their policy.  Both the old and the new versions are little more than a gun control screed dressed up as science.  News consumers these days are also more accustomed to media reporters and editors who see promoting liberal causes like gun control as part of their job.

Here are the main points of the AAP’s new and improved anti-gun policy:

1)  Although the AAP concedes that firearm-related deaths in the 15-19 year age group have decreased nearly 60% since 1994, pediatricians still should work for more gun control.

2)  The populations it studies to explain firearm deaths are high-risk youth in urban settings with little or no parental guidance regarding firearms or anything else.  In other words, the AAP sees the demographics of youth with firearms as the demographics of violent urban juvenile crime.  The far more numerous kids who compete in NRA-sanctioned state shooting matches, 4H shooting sports, scouting shooting competitions, local gun club youth shooting matches, or just the American tradition of fathers teaching their kids to shoot aren’t mentioned in the AAP policy.  In fact the AAP has never acknowledged this demographic in its official literature on firearms.  Why not?

3)  According to statistics from the CDC, the National Safety Council and the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of fatal firearm accidents has steadily fallen for the last 80 years and for children now hovers at an all-time low of about 2 per million children per year (Oh, wait, they didn’t include that in the report).

4)  The Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller and 2010 McDonald decisions prohibit comprehensive gun bans, but pediatricians should still push for more gun control.

5)  Pediatricians should still ask patients and parents about guns in their homes and urge parents to “prevent access to these guns by children.”  The policy no longer advises parents to “remove them, especially handguns, from the home” as it did in the 2000 edition.  The AAP sages apparently figured out how inflammatory the original policy was.

6)  “The AAP recommends restoration of the ban on the sale of assault weapons to the general public.”  They plow ahead in the face of persistent fears among congressional Democrats, to say nothing of Republicans, that resuscitating the 1994 Clinton gun ban is a lost cause and a sure loser.

7)  “The [AAP] continues to support…the strongest possible regulations of handguns for civilian use.”  Considering the draconian laws still in effect in places like New York City and Chicago, we can be sure that includes pretty much everything up to and including a ban on owning handguns.

If there was ever any doubt that the American Academy of Pediatrics means to advocate a ban on private gun ownership, this new policy should settle it once and for all.  The rest of the country has moved on from the gun control scares of the 1990s.  Back then, when drug crime was at its worst, medical gun control activists used scare tactics to push their agenda.

But over the last two decades violent crime has dropped dramatically, polls show far more support for the right to own guns, more women are learning how to shoot, and the Supreme Court has cleared up any doubts that that gun ownership is a constitutional right.  All states but Illinois have adopted right-to-carry laws, allowing good citizens to discreetly carry firearms for self-protection.  And modern sporting rifles—the dreaded “assault weapons”—are all the rage among hunters, target shooters, zombie hunters, and law-abiding home defenders.

But the leaders of the American Academy of Pediatrics prefer to remain in the past, refusing to leave behind an outmoded and pessimistic view of humankind, one that would deny people that most natural right, the right of self-defense.  Increasingly the American people are leaving them behind.

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