I started writing and blogging about guns and gun violence in May 2012, when I learned that the NRA was sponsoring a law in Florida and elsewhere that would criminalize physicians for counseling patients about guns. Since I first went started this effort, I have produced somewhere around 1,800,000 words on guns and gun violence, much of my writing connected to the issue of guns, medicine, and public health.  This output includes 1,760 blogs on my website,  15 self-published books, 252 weekly columns I wrote for Huffington Post and 9 academic papers I have published on SSRN.

              I’m not listing all this output to pat myself on the back. I’m mentioning it because in all my writing about guns and gun violence, I have realized that I have ignored the most important issue of all.

              This is the issue of risk. And if you don’t understand and apply a proper definition of risk to the issue of gun violence, then you can’t understand anything about guns. Which unfortunately, appears to be the case with my friends in medicine and public health who honestly endeavor to find solutions to the problem of gun violence and yet again and again either ignore. misunderstand or mis-state guns and risk.

              How do we define risk from a medical point of view? We define medical risk as the probability of suffering harm when exposed to a specific risk factor. What is the risk factor in gun violence?  The gun. How do we know this? Because Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara found that the presence of a gun in the home created homicide and suicide risks. Is there any medical risk that is more serious than death?

              How has medicine and public health responded to the evidence that assigns a high level of medical risk to the presence of a gun? They have decided and they promote the idea that this risk can be mitigated and reduced by making the causal factor – the gun – something ‘safe.’ The gun will be made ‘safe’ because it will be used in a ‘responsible’ way, or it will be made ‘safe’ because it is locked up or locked away, or it will be made ‘safe’ by allowing people to go before a judge and take the gun away from someone who isn’t using the gun in ‘safe’ way.

              This is total and complete nonsense, and the only reason that such absurdly ridiculous strategies get any traction at all in the public domain is because my friends in medicine and public health actually believe that gun owners will take them seriously if they can just convince these gun owners that nobody wants to take away their guns. It’s what various medical and advocacy groups now refer to as ‘consensus,’ the idea being that we’ll come up with solutions to the 100,000+ fatal and non-fatal gun injuries which occur every year by incorporating life-saving strategies from ‘both sides.’

              Is there a single physician or public health specialist in the United States who would dare suggest that we should arrive at a ‘consensus’ approach to cigarettes? Should we develop a plan to reduce childhood obesity by asking some overweight kids or their overweight parents to tell us which full-calorie soft drinks they should imbibe?

              What none of these well-meaning gun-control advocates seem to understand is that the overwhelming number of fatal and non-fatal gun violence isn’t caused because gun owners not behaving properly or responsibly with their guns. Gun violence in this country is caused because we are the only country in the entire world which allows consumers to buy, own and use guns that are designed only for the purpose of ending human life.

 My Glock 17 pistol, which holds 16 rounds of military-grade ammunition, wasn’t designed by Gaston Glock to shoot a bird out of a tree.  My Colt AR-15 rifle, which allows me to get off 30 rounds of military-grade ammunition in 20 seconds or less wasn’t designed by Gene Stoner to take a pot-shot at Bambi or pop one into Smokey the Bear’s rear end.

These guns represent a level of risk that can only be reduced by restricting their ownership and use. If and when Gun-control Nation and their academic/clinical partners finally figure this out and begin promoting strategies that reflect the risk of such weapons, we might actually experience a decline in gun-violence rates.

If not, we won’t.