Vik Khanna asks, Should Doctors Screen Their Patients for Gun Violence?
Wintemute also asserts: “Nationwide in 2016, there was an average of 97 deaths from firearm violence per day: 35[,]476 altogether. In the 10 years ending with 2016, deaths of U.S. civilians from firearm violence exceeded American combat fatalities in World War II.” But these kinds of comparisons are meaningless. Every year in America, for example, so many people die from medical errors (about 245,000) that it would take almost four Vietnam conflicts to rival the medical mayhem. But that tells us absolutely nothing about what we could do to reduce medical errors.
Wintemute’s tally of “firearm violence,” by the way, includes gun suicides — and of course it leaves out similar violent acts committed without guns. In 2014, guns accounted for only about half of all suicides. Do we not care about the other 21,440? Or how about the fact that the absolute risk of suicide is 14 percent higher now than 20 years ago?
More than twice as many Americans died in 2014 from unintentional injury (135,928) as from homicide and suicide combined (58,698). But there are no calls to ban ladders, throw rugs, electricity, power tools, cars, pools, or cell phones.
And if we did magically eliminate firearms, would the overall homicide or suicide rate improve? Probably not.
The number of guns in circulation has soared over the past couple of decades, and states have liberalized their concealed-carry laws, while the gun-homicide rate has fallen. Meanwhile, Japan, a developed nation with highly restrictive gun laws, has a suicide rate almost a third greater than ours. Another OECD country, South Korea, has gun laws somewhat less restrictive than Japan’s, but a suicide rate more than double that of the United States. Want something more Western? France has strict gun laws, but its suicide rate is greater than the U.S.’s. In fact, among the developed nations making up the OECD, in which gun laws vary widely, the U.S. is just slightly higher than the median.
As the son of a severely ill bipolar depressive man, I completely get how awful depression is, and I am all too aware of how the severely depressed can seek death as a release. However, I don’t quite get why this segment of the medical community is so obsessed with acts committed with firearms in particular. Maybe wanting to help desperately ill people who don’t have a gun in their hands just doesn’t generate grants.
This quasi-scientific demagoguery is just an industry product — the anti-gun subculture of the academy — looking for press, props, and money from benefactors. I get it; we all have to make a living. The fact Wintemute is published so often, while almost never producing a result that challenges the gun-control orthodoxy, speaks to how debased the peer-reviewed scientific literature has become. It is, to paraphrase Stanford physician John P. Ioannidis, a swamp of biases, agendas, and preordained answers, in which both authors and journal editors are complicit. It is just no longer credible.
If anti-gun researchers want to be heroic, instead of merely being celebrated as heroes in the media, here is what they can do: Support firearm-safety classes in schools; find a better way to keep crazies like Stephen Paddock and Devin Kelley out of our midst and not just away from the gun store; speak out against the unspeakable incompetence of a federal government that cannot keep its gun-buyer screening database up to date; admit that gun violence is driven by race, class, and local criminal phenomena such as gangs and the drug trade, and in black communities is closely tied to the Great Society’s destruction of the black family; and, finally, acknowledge that prohibition doesn’t work — didn’t work with alcohol, doesn’t work with drugs, and won’t work with guns, because the only people who will abide the strictures will be the victims.