Taking on the “Cure” for Gun Violence

When you look at the facts and statistics, the conversation changes

*This article was originally published at Slow Facts

Doctor Gary Gonsalves is an anesthesiologist in southern California.  He saw an article in a medical journal that said the recent flood of gun-regulations in California was only a good start, but probably not enough.  The article also called for more government funded anti-gun propaganda and more “gun-control”.   I helped Dr Gonsalves with facts and references.  Here is our article.  A revised edition appeared in his medical journal today.

“Taking the Cure to Stop Violence” by Gary Gonsalves, M.D. and Rob Morse

In reference to Dr. Rita Agarwal’s “Gun Violence: When will we make a change”, she makes an emotional appeal for “gun control” while conveniently ignoring the science that she calls on us to embrace:

  • Agarwal cries, that the Center for Disease Control should study “gun violence”.  I think we should examine the extensive research that already exists.  Data from the 1970’s to current day will be presented here.
  • Agarwal says we don’t know the cause of violence. I say the etiology is obvious, but we all recognize the difficulties in changing social dynamics, so some of us acquiesce to the less challenging course of blaming-and-banning inanimate objects.
  • Agarwal says that violence with a firearm is more prevalent in United States than in other countries. I’ll present data clearly confirming that the United States is among the safest countries on earth.
  • Agarwal implies that guns cause violence. I will show you the reports demonstrating that armed individuals stop violent crimes hundreds-of-thousands of times per year.

So let’s look at the facts, while being sensitive to emotions elicited by hysterical claims and the toxic effects of interpersonal violence.

The fact is that we are not facing an epidemic of armed violence in the United States.  Rates of armed homicide declined 50% over the last 30 years while firearms ownership has doubled (1)(2).  Further, the U.S. is ranked 11th for the incidence of mass murder per 100 thousand when compared against European countries. The U.S. is more peaceful per person than France, Switzerland, Norway or Belgium during the last 7 years (3). While statistics don’t and shouldn’t change our emotional reaction to human suffering, when properly employed, they can provide a foundation for critical analysis.  So let’s consider the research.

In 2013, The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, in cooperation with the CDC, outlined potential research via “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence”, but we need not await their results as ample research already indicates that, at a minimum, 4 out of 5 criminals obtain their firearms illegally (4)(5)(6).  Intuitively, we all know that criminals don’t care if they follow gun laws, which explains why gun laws have no effect on the rate at which criminals use firearms.  I have no way to know if Dr. Agarwal is aware of these findings, but I am certain that the new California gun control laws that she calls a “good first step”, are anything but (7).  Rather, they are merely seven more laws added to the already existing 23 thousand gun control laws at the local, state and federal level.  While it may seem cliché, the truth is that criminals don’t follow the law and making criminals out of law-abiding citizens does nothing to make us all safer.

Again referencing the research, a 2007 study from Harvard University titled “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?” concluded it would not.  “Stricter laws don’t mean there is less crime”(8).  This was further reinforced by the recent revelation that after more than 20 years, the Brady (gun control) Bill has failed to reduce suicide or homicide (9).  Even the spokespeople for gun control groups frequently admit that so called gun control laws don’t stop criminals from obtaining firearms.  Michael Beard, director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said, “I would agree that clearly no law is going to prevent criminals from getting handguns or any kind of weapon they want….You can’t take guns away from criminals”(10). Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center said, “Handgun controls do little to stop criminals from obtaining handguns” (11).

We see further confirming evidence daily.  If gun control laws worked, then the cities of Oakland, Newark and Chicago would be our safest cities rather than some of our most dangerous.  Gun laws don’t work, because they fail to address the actual problem.  Calling for more failed gun laws is a quick emotional, but irrational fix, when we should rather be implementing the following approach as suggested by the CDC,

Effective approaches for preventing violence include early education through school-based programs addressing social, emotional, and behavioral competencies; parent and family-based programs promoting positive relationships, communication, support, and proper supervision; and efforts to improve school, neighborhood, and community environments in ways that reduce the likelihood of violence.Promoting the capacity of communities to implement such approaches might prove essential to achieving population-level impacts.” (12)

As physicians, we all recognize the potential danger of bad prescriptions.  So what could be the harm in disarming law-abiding individuals?  Many independent studies cite research showing that law abiding gun owners use a firearm for self-defense thousands of times every day (13). Ordinary citizens often defend themselves without having to discharge their firearm.   Further, when it comes to protecting victims of violent crime such as rape, a review of Justice Department data from 1979-1985 revealed that when a victim used a gun to resist “stranger” rape the probability of completing the rape was 0.1% and injury to the victim was 0%.  In comparison, unarmed victims suffered the rape act 31% of the time and had other violent injuries 40% of the time (14). Further, as you would expect, gun ownership is most effective in protecting those segments of society who receive the least attention from police.  Hence, personal firearm ownership, and the positive perception thereof, is growing rapidly among urban minorities who own guns as a positive tool for their own protection, as gang violence is an unfortunate reality for them (15)(16).

Yes, we have a persistent problem with violent gangs in some of our inner cities.  The most dangerous of these cities have been run by Democrats for decades (17).  These cities suffer under the failed political policies that killed jobs and broke up families.  As social dynamics collapsed, young people found “family” in gangs.  The illicit-drug industry provided the financial means to survive.  In short, drug-gangs replaced functional households, while entire neighborhoods were ruled by the most violent among them.  According to the FBI’s 2011 National Gang threat Assessment (the last year for which approximate numbers were provided) there are approximately 1.4 million gang members in the United States.  These gang members  “are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and up to 90 percent in several others”(18).   This means that 0.4% of our population is responsible for 48-90% of our violent crime.  Note that California’s new “gun laws” are directed at the 99.6% of our population that isn’t part of the problem.  This is insane.

Conversely, when we remove these same cities from U.S. statistics, our country becomes one of the safest places in the world.  As a matter of fact, in Plano, Texas, where they have amongst the highest number of guns per citizen, their murder rate is so low that if Plano were its own country, it would have the second lowest homicide rate in the world (19).  Clearly we know what works to make us safe…and what doesn’t.  Most politicians realize this, but use gun-control laws as an ineffective crutch because they are unwilling or unable to address the much larger and more difficult issue of inner-city social collapse.  Honest citizens suffer under an obscene number of firearms laws and regulations.

But what can we do right now to decrease violence involving firearms today?

  1. Require all felony convictions to be reported to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS). According to the NRA’s Wayne La Pierre, “38 states submit less than 80% of their felony convictions to the system, leaving more than 7 million felony convictions in the dark.”
  2. Require people who have been adjudicated mentally incompetent and dangerous be reported to the NICS. Again, we can likely agree that people with serious psychiatric issues should also not be able to pass the NICS.
  3. End “gun-free” zones. Criminals simply don’t respect those “gun free zone“ signs and recognize they won’t be immediately faced by armed response.
  4. Stop glorifying violence. Exposure to synthetic violence as seen on television and in video games desensitizes our most vulnerable children and young adults to the real effects of violence (20).
  5. Stop glorifying mass murderers. Never mention their name to deny their sick quest for notoriety.
  6. Demand that prosecutors stop plea-bargaining violent felony level crimes to misdemeanors.
  7. While not a quick solution, we must get involved in our local communities and elect righteous representatives. Simultaneously, we must again teach our young to be responsible. This includes respecting authority, respecting life, and appreciating the importance of community.

In short, I reject Dr. Agarwal’s call for gun-control.  She advocates an ineffective approach while denying the existence of the science that she calls on us to embrace.  She has used an emotional plea to help achieve a political goal that has yet to solve any problems.

On the other hand, I will do my best to implement strategies to effect substantial positive change.  While not all things can be changed, nothing can be changed until it’s faced in earnest.

~_~_

Gary Gonsalves, M.D. is a board certified, private practice Anesthesiologist in San Diego county.  He sits on the Advisory Board for San Diego County Gun Owners.  Viawww.SanDiegoShootingSocial.com he has personally overseen the firearms training of hundreds of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals while raising money to support local charities.  He can be reached at GaryGonsalvesMD@gmail.com

Rob Morse is a design engineer and firearms instructor in Louisiana.  He writes at Ammoland, at hisSlowfacts blog, and at Clash Daily.   Rob co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast, and hosts theSelf-Defense Gun Stories Podcast each week.

References:

  1. FBI: Uniform Crime Reporting (1993-2012).  Retrieved from:  https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/1tabledatadecoverviewpdf/table_1_crime_in_the_united_states_by_volume_and_rate_per_100000_inhabitants_1993-2012.xls
  2. Perry, Mark J. (2015, December 4). Chart of the Day: More Guns, less violence between 1993 and 2013 [Web Log Post]. Retrieved from. https://www.aei.org/publication/chart-of-the-day-more-guns-less-gun-violence-between-1993-and-2013/
  3. Crime Prevention Research Center (2016, January). US becoming safer compared to Europe in both fatalities and frequency of mass public shootings:  US now ranks 11th in fatalities and 12th in frequency.  Retrieved from http://crimeresearch.org/2016/01/compared-to-europe-the-us-falls-in-rank-for-fatalities-and-frequency-of-mass-public-shootings-now-ranks-11th-in-fatalities-and-12th-in-frequency/
  4. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine: Health and Medicine Division (2013, June).  Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence.  Retrieved fromhttps://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2013/Priorities-for-Research-to-Reduce-the-Threat-of-Firearm-Related-Violence.aspx
  5. Fabio, Anthony PhD MPH et al (2016, January 15). Gaps continue in firearm surveillance:  Evidence from a large U.S. City Bureau of Police.  Retrieved fromhttp://www.socialmedicine.info/index.php/socialmedicine/article/view/852/1649
  6. Cook, Philip J (2015, October). Sources of guns to dangerous people:  What we learn by asking them.  Preventative Medicine, Volume 79, pp 28-36.
  7. Agarwal, Rita (2016, August 22). Gun Violence:  When will we make a change?  [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://members.csahq.org/blog/2016/08/22/gun-violence-when-will-we-make-change
  8. Kates, Don and Mauser, Gary (2007, June1). Would banning firearms reduce murder and suicide? A review of international and some domestic evidence.  Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.  Volume 30 pp 650-685. Retrieved fromhttp://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf
  9. Cook, Philip J. (2013). Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis. Center for Gun Policy and Research, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. pp 22-23.  Retrieved fromhttps://jhupress.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/1421411113_updf.pdf
  10. Beard, Michael (1979, January 23rd). Press Conference, quoted in Reports from Washington 6, no. 3 [February 13, 1979], p.1
  11. Sugarman, Josh (1987, June).  The NRA Is Right: But We Still Need to Ban Handguns. Washington Monthly  pp 11-15
  12. Center for Disease Control (2013, August 2). Firearm Homicides and Suicides in Major Metropolitan Areas – United States 2006-2007 and 2009-2010”,  Volume 62(30), pp 597-602
  13. National Academies Press (2013). Priorities for research to reduce the threat of firearm-related violence.  Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/read/18319/chapter/3
  14. Kleck, Gary and Sayless, Susan (1990).  Rape and resistance.  Social Problems,  Volume 37(2) 149.
  15. Pew Research Center (2015, August 13). Gun Rights vs Gun Control.  Retrieved fromhttp://www.people-press.org/2015/08/13/gun-rights-vs-gun-control/#race
  16. Pew Research Center (2014, December 10). Growing Public Support for Gun Rights: More say guns do more to protect than put people at risk.   Retrieved from http://www.people-press.org/2014/12/10/growing-public-support-for-gun-rights/
  17. Investor Business Daily (2016, March 9). How decades of democratic rule ruined some of our finest cities.  Retrieved from http://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/how-decades-of-democratic-rule-ruined-some-of-our-finest-cities/
  18. Federal Bureau of Investigation (2011). 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment.  Retrieved fromhttps://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/2011-national-gang-threat-assessment/
  19. City-Data.com (2002-2014). Crime rate in Plano, Texas:  murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, thefts, autothefts, arson, law enforcement employees, police officers, crime map.  Retrieved from http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Plano-Texas.html
  20. Beresin, Eugene MD (2016). The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions.  American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
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