Contrast and meaning at a gun show: a doctor weighs in on gun control

Don’t be too quick on the draw,

Is there a statistical flaw?

When it comes to a gun,

Let people have fun,

Just enforce existing law.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  In May 2010, I left my position of 23 years, and honoring my non-compete clause, traveled for a year doing locum tenens work.  In June of 2011 I joined up with the Community Health Center, which provides care for the underserved.  I’m now working part-time, which, for a doctor, means 54 hours a week.

The US has lots of firearms and lots of firearms deaths; in the current gun control debate, a lot of statistics have been thrown back and forth.  When listening to the statistics, one must remember to think critically.  The question has arisen if firearms deaths constitute a public health issue.

Tobacco remains the big killer in our country.  Close to 450,000 people die per year from tobacco, 10% of them from passive smoking.  Thus on the day of the Sandy Hook killings more children died from passive smoking than died from bullets. 

Effective legislation should decrease the death rate from firearms, rather than regulate for the sake of regulation.  In our country, lightning kills about as many people as succumb to high-capacity clips. 

While in Barrow, I met a number of people who guarded their whale camp with assault style firearms.  Certainly if I lived in polar bear and wolf country, I would want a lot of firepower. 

As the number of firearms in the country increases, the number of deaths from firearms decreases.  This trend has remained steady for more than 20 years. 

The vast majority of firearms deaths in our country occur in the demographic of young minority men aged 15 to 25 who have not been accorded equal protection under the law.  Made outlaws by our society, they behave as outlaws; they shoot each other.

Prohibition should have taught us that passing laws without providing for enforcement does more harm than good; people learn to disrespect the law.

Accidental firearms deaths happened fewer than 200 times per year, despite our 300,000,000 guns.

If we really want to do something about saving lives, we would increase the taxes on tobacco by a dollar a pack per year, indefinitely.

I helped staff a gun show earlier today.  While there, a number of people spontaneously remarked to me about how they’re doing after their cancer surgeries.   One fellow admitted he smoked 3 to 4 packs a day until breathlessness during a golf game drove him to give up his cigarettes.  Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

As hundreds of people browsed through the show’s offerings, ordinary rifles, shotguns, pistols, and revolvers, a few stepped outside to smoke.  The real public health problem contrasted with the much maligned “assault rifles,” (which really are weapons whose biggest failing is in aesthetics).  Contrast is still the essence of meaning.

On a personal basis, I have no use for the black rifles with pistol grips, bayonet lugs, and the capacity to accept 30 round magazines.  But I’m glad I know people who like them.  They keep the government honest.


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