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AMA Head Calls For Research . . .

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

In his inaugural speech as president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Richard F. Corlin used that platform to launch an ill-informed, broadside attack on the private ownership of firearms in America. He called for "scientific research and objective discussion," but in his June 20 remarks, Dr. Corlin abandoned all pretense of science objectivity and instead regurgitated the distortions and lies spread by the anti-gun lobby. For example:

I. Dr. Corlin: "Today, it`s very different. Guns are so available and violence so commonplace . . . it`s as if guns have replaced fists as the playground weapon of choice."

Dose of Reality: The notion that violence occurs because today kids have easier access to guns than in the past is flawed in several ways. It is true that America has more guns overall, but the percentage of households having guns is about the same or even lower than it was decades ago. And the guns that years ago were once proudly displayed over the mantel are now far more likely to be locked up.
The "easy access" hypothesis also assumes that, in the absence of easily available guns, would-be violent youth wouldn`t commit violent acts. The two Columbine High murderers disproved that by producing an arsenal of 99 bombs. And, most insultingly, the "easy access" explanation would have us assume that otherwise normal, good kids become dangerous only in the presence of guns.

II. Dr. Corlin: "In the 1990s, the CDC had a system in place for collecting data about the results of gun violence. But Congress took away its funding, thanks to heavy lobbying by the anti-gun control groups."

Dose of Reality: In the late 1990s, the House Appropriations Committee reprogrammed funds from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The amount reprogrammed equated to the amount being spent on firearms research that had been described as "biased" and "shameful" by independent experts from institutions such as the Columbia Medical School and Harvard Medical School.

III. Dr. Corlin: The AMA House of Delegates "recognized the irrefutable truth that ‘uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns, is a serious threat to the public`s health in as much as the weapons are one of the main causes of intentional and unintentional injuries and death.`"

Dose of Reality: Actually the AMA`s version of truth is easily refutable since it is, at best, a half-truth. While it is true that firearms are associated with approximately 30,000 deaths—the majority of them suicides—in the U.S. annually, firearms are used far more often to save lives and protect property. Award-winning survey research demonstrates that guns are used as often as 2.5 million times a year in the U.S. for protection. This is three to five times as often as they are misused by criminals.

IV. Dr. Corlin: "This [gun violence] is a uniquely American epidemic."

Dose of Reality: Dr. Corlin continued on to make the usual comparison of U.S. firearms deaths to those in foreign countries so favored by anti-gun propagandists. He, of course, failed to note homicide rates in Europe have always been lower than the U.S.`s both before and after the adoption of anti-gun laws. Conversely, suicide is a much greater problem in most European countries than it is here, but since the difference can`t be blamed on guns, it`s not discussed. Nor do anti-gunners point out that Great Britain`s total handgun ban has failed so miserably as a crime deterrent that London police recently announced they were forming SWAT teams to combat emboldened armed criminals.

V. Dr. Corlin: "Now, we don`t regulate guns in America. . . . No federal agency is allowed to exercise oversight over the gun industry—either to ensure consumer safety—or to control interstate commerce."

Dose of Reality: With more than 20,000 laws on the books at the local, state and federal levels, firearms are in fact one of the most regulated products in America. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) is empowered to regulate the sale, manufacture and importation of firearms—few products have the oversight of nearly an entire federal agency. Most states also have a corresponding regulatory and law enforcement agency that oversees firearms and enforces state firearms laws. Firearms also fall under all laws relating to negligent manufacture, so any manufacturer who sells an inherently unsafe firearm will very quickly find itself facing an unforgiving jury. Lastly, firearms are the only product for which an American citizen needs to receive the FBI`s permission—through the National Instant Check System—before be allowed to make a retail purchase.

VI. Dr. Corlin: "Gunfire kills 10 children a day in America."

Dose of Reality: As Dr. Corlin must know, the "10 children a day" figure is reached only if persons aged 15–19 are counted as children. Deaths in this group occur most often because older teenagers have abandoned childhood innocence to take up drug dealing and other street crime. When children are commonly defined—ages 14 or younger—Dr. Corlin`s number drops almost 90%.

VII. Dr. Corlin: "The gun lobby loves to use the Second Amendment as a smokescreen—to hide the reality of the damage that guns do. . . ."

Dose of Reality: Prof. Nicholas J. Johnson of Fordham University of Law perhaps put it best when he wrote: "Perhaps the greatest barrier to a unified response to gun crime is the treatment of the Second Amendment by the anti-gun lobby." America`s gun prohibitionists steadfastly hold to the notion that the Second Amendment protects only the right of a state to organize and maintain a militia, for only one reason—because they can`t afford to discuss gun ownership as a civil liberty.

VIII. Dr. Corlin: "A gun kept in the home for self-defense is 22 times more likely to be used to kill a family member or a friend than an intruder."

Dose of Reality: The gross deficiencies of the study that produced this factoid are numerous and have been discussed exhaustively. For example, consider using dead criminals to measure the efficacy of handgun ownership. Is the competence of a police department measured by counting how many people they lawfully kill every year? The benefits to society of the police—and of home handgun ownership—are not measured by the number of dead criminals, but by the number of crimes prevented. Tallying corpses tells us nothing about the real safety value of gun ownership for protection. But then again, treating law-abiding citizens according to standards that would be appropriate for criminals is the hallmark of the gun control movement.

IX. Dr. Corlin: "Gun injuries cost our nation $2.3 billion in medical costs each year."

Dose of Reality: In addition to offering the most effective protection to potential victims of crime, firearms also save society money in terms of crimes prevented, lives saved and property protected. A study by the National Center for Policy Analysis suggests "benefits of defensive gun use exceed the costs of firearm crimes by as much as $38.9 billion—an amount equal to about $400 per year for every household in America."




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