In this Plague Year all I can hope is that my friends in the medical community will do a better job of dealing with the current COVID-19 epidemic than they have done with the gun-violence epidemic that was first studied and defined in science-based medical studies published back in 1992 and 1993. I am referring to the studies by our friends Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara who found that access to a gun in the home was the cause of high rates of gun violence defined as fatal injuries, i.e., suicide and homicide.
The death toll from intentional shootings since that research appeared is edging its way towards the million mark; in other words, somewhere around an average of 36,000 per year, maybe a few more. As of March 15, there have been 62 COVID-19 deaths reported in the United States, with the first fatality being registered as of February 24th. That’s 2 deaths a day, chump change compared to 100 intentional gun deaths that occur over the same period of time.
How can a medical epidemic go on for at least twenty-five years and not only remain out of control but appear to be getting worse over the last several years? Today the jerk in the White House said he believed we would have the virus contained by Summer at the worst. What do you think would have happened to the Dow Jones if Sleazy Don had gotten up and said that 30,000 people would die from the virus every year until 2045?
I was hardly surprised when the gun industry reacted so violently to the research published by Kellerman and Rivara; after all, they were basically saying that a legal consumer product was too dangerous to be sold except perhaps under the strictest of conditions. At the very least, their research was an invitation for the government to regulate guns, and if you can show me any industry that wants to be regulated, I’ll show you an industry that doesn’t exist.
On the other hand, I was not only surprised but indeed am shocked and dismayed at the manner in which the medical community has reacted to the Kellerman-Rivara evidence, both then and now. Because the response of medical organizations to the indisputable fact that access to a gun creates a medical risk which causes between 35,000 and 40,000 fatalities each year, has been to promote a mitigation strategy which doesn’t impact the incidence of the gun-violence epidemic at all.
This strategy, now referred to as ‘consensus-based,’ says that physicians should tell their gun-owning patients that the risk of firearm ownership can be reduced by locking their guns away or locking them up. But the Kellerman-Rivara research did not (read: not) differentiate risk levels based on secured versus unsecured guns. Thus, the attempt by the medical community to find some middle path between owning versus not owning guns, flies in the face of what the evidence-based research actually shows.
Not only does the medical community promote a response to the gun-violence epidemic that is contrary to accepted research, they go further and actually promote the spread of this epidemic by donating millions of dollars to the campaigns of Congressional members who describe themselves as being the foremost defenders of the ‘right’ to bear arms. When I asked a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians why she had never spoken out against the fact that her organization (which gave her an award last year for her efforts to promote gun control) had donated more than $5 million to the campaigns of pro-NRA politicians since the Kellerman-Rivara articles appeared, she said: “Change takes time.”
How much time do you need? Twenty-eight years isn’t enough?
It took me two days to research and write this column. During that time roughly 7 more people have evidently died from COVID-19. Know how many Americans have died from the gun-violence plague during those same two days? Try two hundred, give or take a few.