Just when I thought we heard the last of him, Tim Wheeler’s back in town with his patented combination of half-truths, distortions and outright lies about physicians and guns. In case you haven’t heard of him, Wheeler is the head of something called Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership which he founded back in the 90’s to help the NRA convince Congress to cut gun research funding for the CDC. Wheeler, who claims to be a physician, has never published a scholarly article of any kind, nor for that matter has he ever engaged in any medical or scientific research about guns or anything else. But because he can put the initials MD after his name, the NRA trots him out every time gun research appears in a medical journal.
Wheeler’s loony version of reality was in full evidence this week following the publication of an article in the journal Pediatrics, which is a favorite target for the ravings of delusionals like Wheeler who pander for the NRA. The article, co-authored by a dozen medical specialists who work in emergency and trauma departments in the Far West, compared treatment outcomes and costs for children at emergency facilities based on the type of injury suffered that led to admission.
In addition to gunshots, the study covered cuts, blunt object injuries, falls and vehicle accidents. Not surprisingly, gun shots comprised the smallest number of all injury categories. But gunshot injuries also resulted in the highest cost per admission, more than $28,000 per patient (the next highest, vehicle accidents, was $15,000,) and the highest incidence of in-hospital mortality. In other words, when a kid gets hit with a bullet, he or she will require a degree of medical care that is unlike any level of care required for any other type of serious injury.
In brief, that’s what the article says. That’s all it says. Oops, there are some recommendations which I’ll quote: “Public health, injury prevention and health policy solutions are needed to reduce gunshot in juries in children.” I’m quoting the recommendations so that you’ll understand the irresponsibility of Wheeler who reacted to this study in an appearance on NRA’s Cam Edward’s talk show by condemning the “anti-gun hype” of this and other medical research on guns. And just to make sure that his argument remained at the absolutely lowest intellectual level, he didn’t miss the opportunity to remind everyone that since the majority of the gunshot patients were minority males ages 15 to 19, there’s no doubt that they were gang members whose criminal behavior brought the injury on themselves.
The truth is, that with the exception of quacks like Wheeler, the NRA is afraid of physicians. They fear physicians because they know that most Americans probably trust their physician more than they trust anyone else. They rely on their doctors, they confess their deepest fears and secrets to their doctors, and when a parent wakes up in the middle of the night and hears that child in the next room having difficulty breathing, he’s not going to grab the phone and call the NRA. He’s going to call the doctor.
The NRA has spent the last twenty years trying to convince us that we will all be safer if we all have a gun. Most physicians disagree. I’m not sure that the research has yet been conducted or published that definitively proves one or the other point of view. But I do know that the shrill and stupid comments by people like Timothy Wheeler only serve to debase the efforts of honest people to search for a reasonable point of view.