This week the press gleefully reported the anti-gun pronouncements of a trio of diverse special interest groups. The Washington Post announced, “Frustrated [American Medical Association] adopts sweeping policies to cut gun violence.” In a separate piece, addressing statements by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), the Post blared “Police chiefs plot new strategies against gun violence and mass shootings.” Politico reported, “Conference of Mayors passes resolutions favoring gun control.” In other breaking news, water is wet and the sun rises in the East.
All three of these organizations have lengthy histories of opposing the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Following its 2018 annual meeting, held June 9-13 in Chicago, the AMA announced the group’s support for a host of gun restrictions. The AMA-supported gun control measures included a ban on the sale to and possession of firearms by young adults 18 to 21, and gun turn-in (buyback) programs. The group also adopted a policy in support of legislation banning “the sale and ownership to the public of all assault-type weapons, bump stocks and related devices, high-capacity magazines, and armor-piercing bullets.” In other words, gun confiscation.
In 1973, the AMA adopted a sensible position on violence perpetrated with firearms. It held,
That while the increasing number of homicides by use of handguns is a depressing reality, and there is little evidence that new Federal gun control legislation will ameliorate this situation, the American Medical Association urge the enactment of strict penalties for the use of firearms in the commission of crime.
Unfortunately, since the 1980s the AMA has supported the various gun control schemes of the anti-gun groups and politicians of the day. In 1988, the AMA called for a ban on the scary new polymer Glock pistols, incorrectly contending that they were not readily detectable. The group also called for the Consumer Products Safety Commission to be authorized to regulate the manufacture and sale of firearms; a tactic that was favored by some gun control advocates as a way to facilitate a ban on the civilian possession of handguns. In the 1990s, the AMA advocated for a national seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases, a ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms, and a ban on hollow point self-defense ammunition.
Moreover, the Journal of the American Medical Association has long been a mouthpiece for anti-gun advocates. In the June 10, 1992 edition of the journal, JAMA Editor George D. Lundberg advocated for a national “system of gun registration and licensing for gun owners and users.” Revealing his vicious anti-gun prejudice in 1995, Lundberg declared, “We, in the 1990s, have as our opposition the National Rifle Association, many gun owners, and many wife beaters who do not wish to change their behavior.”
Gun control was also on the agenda at the 86th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), held June 8-11 in Boston. The group adopted a policy resolution supporting all manner of gun controls. The anti-gun measures included gun rationing, further burdens on licensed gun dealers, a ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and their magazines, and opposition to self-defense laws and Right-to-Carry reciprocity.
In an attempt to grant their effort a false legitimacy, the group contended,
the U.S. Conference of Mayors has a 50-year history of formally adopting and aggressively promoting strong policies to reduce gun violence, all consistent with its support for the Second Amendment to the Constitution;
In truth, USCM is nothing short of a gun prohibition organization. In 1972, USCM adopted a policy resolution calling for the abolition of private handgun ownership. It stated,
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the United States Conference of Mayors takes a position of leadership and urges national legislation against the manufacture, importation, sale, and private possession of handguns, except for use by law enforcement personnel, military and sportsmen clubs;
Making clear the group has no interest in policies consistent with the Second Amendment, a 1979 USCM publication declared, “A constitutional right to bear arms does not exist,” and noted, “the Second Amendment is an anachronism today.” In 2008, USCM filed a friend of the court brief in District of Columbia v. Heller in support of Washington, D.C.’s total handgun ban. Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the District in Heller and recognized that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.
As for PERF, last week the organization of police chiefs adopted an “action plan to reduce gun violence.” Alongside a handful of law enforcement measures that could help to combat violent crime, PERF expressed its support for a raft of new gun controls. The group advocated for gun owner licensing and a ban on the sale of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and their magazines.
In 1986, NRA reported in the American Rifleman that PERF had received thousands in donations from Handgun Control Inc. (later renamed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence). In 1989, PERF President Cornelius J. Behan appeared in newspaper ads advocating for a ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms. In a press release accompanying the ad, Behan declared that these semi-automatic firearms “were designed and manufactured for one purpose only – to kill human beings…”
With such lengthy histories of support for gun control, it is unsurprising that these group would continue their anti-gun efforts. However, what should strike most as concerning is the extent to which the groups’ policy goals are unmoored to the empirical data.
For instance, each group expressed their support for a ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic rifles. In 1997, a federally-funded study of the 1994 Clinton semi-auto ban conducted by the Urban Institute admitted, “At best, the assault weapons ban can have only a limited effect on total gun murders, because the banned weapons and magazines were never involved in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders.” In 2004, a follow-up federal-funded study conducted by UPenn researcher Christopher Koper found that “the ban’s impact on gun violence is likely to be small at best, and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”
At the height of Barack Obama’s efforts to enact gun control, the Department of Justice reiterated the inefficacy of a ban on semi-automatic firearms. A 2013 National Institute of Justice memo determined, “a complete elimination of assault weapons would not have a large impact on gun homicides.” The memo also noted, “Since assault weapons are not a major contributor to US gun homicide and the existing stock of guns is large, an assault weapon ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence.”
More recently, a survey of the research on various gun policies conducted by the Rand Corporation found that “Evidence for the effect of assault weapon bans on total homicides and firearm homicides is inconclusive.” In a blow to another one of these groups’ favored policies, Rand also found that “Evidence for the effect of firearm licensing and permitting requirements on total homicides and firearm homicides is inconclusive.”
Perhaps the most blatant example of where AMA’s politics have trumped their reason is on so-called gun buybacks. There is near universal acceptance that gun turn-ins are ineffective, with the evidence against such programs going back decades. A July 1998 publication titled “Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising” from the National Institute of Justice determined that “buybacks” were part of “what doesn’t work.”
When it comes to AMA, USCM, and PERF’s support for gun control, the only thing newsworthy is their rejection of reality.