In a recent Medical Economics blog, Dr. Monya De wrote a piece titled, “Obtaining an assault rifle should be as difficult as becoming a doctor.”
In this outlandish article, De illustrates the difficulties medical students must go through in order to practice medicine. She calls them “model citizens, because model citizens should be the ones holding lives in their hands.” She lists the “strenuous” tasks that people going into medicine take on such as how “They curb their drinking to avoid the DUI that could end their chances for medical or nursing school. They volunteer their time, work as research lab servants for free, take difficult tests, and write and rewrite essays on why they should have a license to heal.”
But avoiding drinking and driving, volunteering time, and working hard to get a career in any field are routine among law-abiding citizens from all walks of life and professions. Such activities and behaviors are not specific to those interested in medical careers.
It is also clear that doctors, or what De consider “model citizens”, are not the only people who hold lives in their hands. All humans hold the gift of life in their hands doing common daily tasks such as driving, operating heavy machinery, flying airplanes, slicing pizza, and the numerous other activities that make up life in modern society.
She claims that “assault rifles” give people “the power to end many people’s lives” and that if someone wants to own one “they should have to make a fantastic case for it, and the process should be highly selective” including, but not limited to, “difficult tests on firearm safety, not just cursory exams” and they should “write essays about why they should receive this privilege.”
Essays to exercise a constitutional right?
We would start our essay on why we should “receive this privilege” by refreshing this doctor’s mind that owning an AR-15 is not a privilege, but an inalienable right expressed in the Second Amendment. We would remind her of why this right was written by James Madison and placed in the Bill of Rights in the first place: to allow citizens the means to defend themselves.
And it appears we have to remind De that while owning a firearm is a constitutional right, becoming a doctor is not. Becoming a doctor is a privilege to those who dedicate themselves to that career path who also have access to the substantial means to pay for the education to do so.
Even with the highly selective and strenuous lifestyle that is necessary for people to become doctors, medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. (behind only heart disease and cancer), accounting for more than 250,000 fatalities a year. This is almost ten times the number of annual deaths attributable to firearms, including the some 20,000 that occur by suicide, despite the rigorous requirements described by De.
Instead of creating new requirements to limit the constitutional rights of “ordinary” law-abiding citizens, we might suggest that De could serve society better by focusing her energies to the obvious problems within the medical profession itself.