April 1999

Will Guns Be Banned As Health Risks?

If they can’t get around the 2nd Amendment, the gun-control crowd may seek to re-enact the days of Prohibition.

There’s an ongoing push to equate gun criminality with some sort of gun-related “disease,” for lack of a better description. Example: A recent Reuters article, which moved on the wires as “US Health System Fails To Track Gun Violence-Study,” uncritically accepted the conclusions of the Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan (HELP) Network. The HELP study purported to find an “information gap” that hobbled efforts to combat gun violence in the United States. Translation: The HELP study was searching for some ruse from which to enact more gun laws. Now this oblique attempt to reach in our holsters and take away or restrict our ability to own guns isn’t new. Politically inspired anti-gun public-health arguments have been made before at the Centers For Disease Control in Atlanta, the New England Journal of Medicine, and others. But the angle is always the same: Guns are too dangerous for regular citizens to own, and they should be taken away for the sake of us all. But, of course, that tack is too confrontational, besides being nonsensical, and likely illegal (that darned Second Amendment).

Misguided individuals like Dr. Katherine Kaufer Christoffel of the HELP Network asserts that there is an “information gap” hindering efforts to combat gun violence in the United States, where more than 30,000 people have been killed by guns each year since 1972. Pardon me, but I don’t see the linkage. Generally speaking, the available data on gunshot wounds are good enough to draw conclusions about any public-health concerns. But the HELP report also wanted to know who was shot, under what circumstances and with what kind of weapon. That’s information for a crime report, not a public health report.

Then the Reuters story showed HELP’s hand, stating, “This kind of information could prove crucial in designing strategies to prevent gun injuries and deaths, the report’s authors said. It also could help paint a clearer picture of the scope of America’s gun problem, which in recent months has sparked several lawsuits against gunmakers by cities looking to recoup the costs of treating gunshot wounds.” Now we see HELP’s motivation. By insisting gun use is a matter of public health, it may be possible to limit access to guns like we do for, say, prescription medicine: not available without a doctor’s signature.

Now, I admit Dr. Katherine Kaufer Christoffel didn’t say that. But my Spider sense tingled when I read the Reuters story, which quoted her as saying, “If there were 35,000 or 36,000 people dying every year from tainted strawberries..., you can bet we’d have one heck of a tracking system in place.” News flash for Dr. Christoffel: Such tracking already exists—it’s called the FBI Uniform Crime Report. But since its results are hard to spin—cities with restrictive gun laws regularly place in the top echelons of shooting mortalities, and a big chunk of total gun deaths are due to suicides (tragic, but neither a crime problem nor a public health concern)-it’s of no help to HELP.

Bottom line: We need to watch for attempts by uninformed people who wish to circumvent the Constitution by classifying gun ownership as a health menace, when in fact gun ownership is our heritage and our right.

-Todd Woodard