NRA Takes on the AAP: Have They Lost Their Minds?



When the NRA or one of its minions goes after pediatricians, the way they are now going after Doctor Judith Palfrey and the American Academy of Pediatrics, they have fallen off the cliff.  This isn’t just more proof that the leadership has come under some extremist, radical spell.  To me it means they have entered goofy-land.  And it scares me because I’m a member of the NRA.  I don’t like to think that this organization, which I joined in 1955, could now be led by people who have completely lost their minds. The NRA didn’t attack Dr. Palfrey and the AAP directly.  It was done for them by an interesting sub-group called Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership.  The head of this group, which claims “1,400 doctors, health care professionals, scientists and others nationwide,” is a physician named Timothy Wheeler.  This organization doesn’t even make a pretense of being rooted in science or fact and coming from other physicians,  its attack on Judith Palfrey and the AAP,  is a professional disgrace. According to Dr. Wheeler, Dr. Palfrey “was recently the president of the notoriously anti-gun rights American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which urges doctors to pressure their patients to get rid of their guns.” That statement is simply a lie.  This past January, the AAP produced a Policy Statement: “Preventing Firearm-Related Injuries in the Pediatric Population.”  It is the official AAP statement on gun ownership as it relates to the health and welfare of children and it was published after the Sandy Hook massacre.  I am assuming that Dr. Wheeler read this statement which is why I am calling him a liar.  If he didn’t read it, he’s a fake.  Either way, here’s the AAP’s official position on guns:

Counsel parents who possess guns that safe storage (locked

and unloaded) and preventing access to guns reduces injury

(by as much as 70%), and that the presence of a gun

in the home increases the risk for suicide among adolescents.

Physician counseling, when linked with the distribution

of cable locks, increases safer home storage of firearms.

                See anything here about getting rid of guns?  See anything here about not owning guns?  See anything here about being notoriously anti-gun?  Well, I guess that if you believe that leaving guns unlocked around the house makes you anti-gun, then that makes most gun owners, including me, anti-gun.  In the interests of full disclosure, I happen to be married to a pediatrician.  She has no problem with the fact that I own a gun shop because she knows that I understand what gun safety really means.  She knows that I counsel my customers about gun safety the same way she counsels her patients.  I guess this makes us both anti-gun, right Dr. Wheeler? Judith Palfrey is among the most respected, eminent pediatricians in the United States.  She has passionately and pragmatically argued for child health priorities over a long and distinguished career.  She deserves a seat at any table when the issue of gun safety is discussed.  What she doesn’t deserve is to have her views distorted by a toady for the NRA.  The NRA leadership can reclaim their credibility by renouncing Timothy Wheeler’s reckless and false statements.  They don’t need to look for enemies under every bed.  They need to come out from the extremist rock under which they have crawled, join with groups like Evolve and contribute to finding sensible solutions to gun violence.

10 thoughts on “NRA Takes on the AAP: Have They Lost Their Minds?

  1. Hello Mike,

    As director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, I thought I’d better clear up some of the untruths and downright insults you’ve directed at me and our 20 year old organization. First, DRGO is not and never has been a part, agent, or surrogate of the National Rifle Association. We respect the NRA as the single most powerful voice of America’s 100 million gun owners, but DRGO is quite independent of them. DRGO was founded as a project of the Claremont Institute and is now a project of a dedicated gun rights group, the Second Amendment Foundation.

    And Mike, you are way out of line in calling me a liar. Everything I’ve written about the AAP’s war on gun owners is true. Read the details at your leisure on DRGO’s web site, .

    Now, as for Dr. Palfrey’s recent emotional attack on gun owners. Here is my anaylysis of her CNN article, in which she pushes readers’ emotional buttons with the ridiculous title “How We Can Keep Kids From Shooting People.” Really? Tens of thousands of toddlers are grabbing their daddies’ hunting rifles and gunning down their playmates every year? You’d think so from her title and article. But in fact such tragedies are vanishingly rare.

    Read my Herald-Tribune blog entry above for my point-by-point dissection of Dr. Palfrey’s disgracefully misleading article. If she’s a scientist, she should conduct herself like one. But she chose instead to 1) misrepresent the true number of accidental child gun deaths, 2) conflate age groups to make it appear that toddlers have the same violence profile as gangbangers, and 3) give out some appallingly bad gun “safety” advice.

    You as a gun shop owner should know these things. I’m sorry you’ve let your apparent blind admiration of Dr. Palfrey and the AAP cloud your judgment. But DRGO will continue to educate the public about the true anti-gun animus of the AAP as evidenced by their own actions. In closing, here’s an example, spoken by Dr. Katherine Christoffel, an architect of the AAP’s firearm policy you quoted above: “Guns are a virus that must be eradicated.” (American Medical News, January 3, 1994). That pretty well sums it up.

    Timothy Wheeler, MD
    Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership
    A Project of the Second Amendment Foundation

    • Thank you for your response. You are certainly doing a very good job of ‘educating’ the public if we assume that your definition of education is to advocate for whatever right-wing policy will make people listen to you because most physicians would be arguing the other side. I’m guilty of the same thing, obviously, because there aren’t many gun shop owners out there who will say publicly that they are anti-NRA. I never said you were a part, agent or surrogate of the NRA; I said you were a “sub-group” by which I meant that you see your role as putting a scientific-medical “patina” on whatever policy or political position they want to promote. The fact is that nobody, that is to say, nobody, has yet to show any direct connection between gun control laws, or lack of gun control laws, and gun violence. I’m not saying there isn’t a link. I’m saying that nobody has proven anything. With all due respect to your scientific credentials, Dr. Wheeler, coincidence isn’t proof. The fact that gun violence goes up or goes down with reference to certain legal events isn’t proof. But that doesn’t stop you and other NRA allies from stating with absolute certainty that there’s no connection between law and behavior.
      Here’s the bottom line: You want people to believe that your criticisms about the AAP are valid because you’re a physician. So they should accept it on faith. Which is fine. But I go back to something that Daniel Patrick Moynihan said about political arguments: “We’re all entitled to our own opinions but we’re only entitled to one set of facts.” You don’t have a set of facts. You’ve got a bunch of shopworn opinions that get rolled out every time the NRA wants to gin up its membership and oppose a gun law. I’m still willing to debate you – azny time, any place.

  2. Which of my facts do you say I’ve gotten wrong? I’ve laid out quite a few of them on my web site at , all painstakingly researched. If I did get some facts wrong, please point them out to me so I can correct them.

  3. You wrote, “The NRA didn’t attack Dr. Palfrey and the AAP directly. It was done for them by an interesting sub-group called Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership.”

    Then when corrected you responded, “I never said you were a part, agent or surrogate of the NRA; I said you were a “sub-group” by which I meant that you see your role as putting a scientific-medical “patina” on whatever policy or political position they want to promote.”

    Which is it? You can’t have it both ways. You are going to have to get used to the fact that you can’t lump all people who stand up for gun owners’ rights as “the NRA” to make it easier to demonize us. Although the NRA’s membership recently swelled to 5 million, tens of millions more rely on the NRA’s candidate ratings to guide their support of candidates. DRGO is its own organization. We have our own priorities and our own expertise. We are simply one group of many pro-gun rights groups around the country. And like them, we are committed to getting the truth out about gun owners. We refuse to be blamed for mass shootings and violent crimes. And we will not allow gun control zealots to hide behind the mantle of science when they really are just pushing an anticonstitutional political agenda.

    • What’s anti-constitutional about expanding background checks to cover transactions that take place away from a dealer’s counter? Because Wayne says it is? There wasn’t a single Senator who voted against Manchin-Toomey who said it was ‘anti-constitutional.’ What they all said was that it was a ‘slippery slope.’ So now we have people like yourself telling us that they’re against something not because of what will happen, but because of what might happen at some point in the future. That’s errant nonsense. Of course there are anti-gun people who want to get rid of all guns, just as there are pro-gun people who don’t any gun laws at all. I’m not interested in talking to any of them on either end. But the one thing we’ve learned from the last two hundred plus years is the only time that law can be used effectively to change behavior is when effective laws and aggressive enforcement are backed up by self-prevention; a cornerstone, by the way, of the AAP policy on gun deaths and injuries which I quoted in my blog and which you conveniently ignored. I don’t care if someone who said something alarming about guns in 1994 was on the committee that prepared the AAP statement. The statement did not in any way endorse or even imply that private gun ownership was a bad thing. But since you’ve spent the last 20 years telling everyone that AAP is anti-gun, you’re not about to admit that their policy statement – a statement that represents the entire organization regardless of a crackpot comment made by one member in 1994 – does not contain anything inflammatory about gun ownership. The evidence is very clear that the suicide rate of adolescents, which is increasing incidentally, is much higher in homes that contain firearms than in homes that do not. And suicide attempts using guns result in deaths more than 90% of the time whereas the death rate from suicides using pills is around 5%. So if a troubled adolescent visits a pediatrician and the physician believes this patient is considering suicide, should the doctor refuse to ask the parent about whether there are guns in the house because the parent has a 2nd Amendment right to own a gun? Which, incidentally, would have happened in Florida had the NRA-initiated law that you supported gone into effect. Are you in the real world? Oh, I forgot, the 2nd Amendment is sacred, right? Crying “fire” in a crowded theater isn’t protected by the 1st Amendment but any loony attempt to protect gun ownership is protected by the 2nd, as long as it’s endorsed by the NRA from whom you have never (as in not one single time) ever differed on any issue, right? I’m very comfortable lumping people together when I can’t tell them apart.

  4. There are several examples of governments using gun registration lists to later confiscate those guns. New York City and the state of California are two examples here in the U.S. The slippery slope is real, as also evidenced by England’s century-long abrogation of it’s subjects’ right to own firearms and even to defend themselves against criminal violence. I refer you to the law review by Professors Olson and Kopel, “All the Way Down the Slippery Slope,” now available at Amazon (

    Here in crazy California just a few months ago Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) authored a bill that would have used the DOJ’s so-called “assault weapon” registration lists to go to owners’ houses and seize their guns. Those owners had dutifully registered their guns years ago and had been told they were safe from prosecution. But gun control zealots ridicule us for opposing registration lists, which the current “background checks” were in disguise.

    Look, if you’re going to continue your ad hominem attacks and be rude, I’m going to pull out of this exchange. Plenty of people really do want the truth, and I’m not going to waste my time any further trying to have a civilized conversation with someone who is motivated by mindless zeal, irrespective of facts.

    If you want to follow DRGO’s activities you’re welcome to check our web site, Twitter feed, and Facebook page. These are exciting times, and people are waking up to the treachery of the gun prohibitionists. I’ve got work to do.

    Timothy W. Wheeler, MD

    Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership
    A Project of the Second Amendment Foundation
    P.O. Box 1931
    Upland, CA 91785-1931


    • Could you tell me when New York City confiscated guns? I’d be very interested in that story. You see, on the one hand you talk about a willingness to trade ideas and that you regret that anti-gun people blame and denigrate all gun owners for things they didn’t do. And you’re correct in that regard; it’s never a positive approach to any problem to make assumptions about anyone’s behavior or motives just because they may share a particular viewpoint with someone else. But then you give the whole thing away by talking about the “treachery” of gun prohibitionists. Who appointed you the guardian of the Constitution? Nobody except yourself. Which is fine. But if you want to call anti-gun activists traitors, then don’t be so thin-skinned if I decide that some of your views are what I called them earlier – errant nonsense. I’m eagerly waiting for your story about gun confiscations in New York City. And I am looking at some of the painstaking research in your earlier blogs, although most of what you publish seems to be a headline that introduces content from one right-wing source or another so I have to go a little deeper and check their painstaking research.

  5. Im married to a gunowner in NYC of all places. I am now going to call my pediatrician and our family GP to inquire if either are members of DRGO – and if either one are, our family will be changing medical practices. Thank you Mike for the great work you’re doing.

  6. Pingback: Health Professionals Should Not Fund Gun Violence. | mikethegunguy

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