Guns N’ Doses: US Healthcare and the Gun Debate

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’d like to clear things up a little before I even begin this topic:  the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America is NOT going anywhere.  No matter what.  That means you get to keep your guns you lunatics.

There are people out there, I am sure, that want to take your guns away.  There are some that wouldn’t mind if somehow those guns would turn on you, like a jilted lover, because in essence it seems that you are enamored of the gun.  Guns have their place.  They give a sense of security.  They can be used to hunt for food.  They can be used for defense.

Americans like guns.  We have a constitutional right to own them, but what about the public health concerns associated with gun ownership and use?  Is it a valid concern?  Much like the public’s concern for clean drinking water, clean air, healthy food, and safe medications, does the government and those in the healthcare field have a duty to study and regulate the use of guns?

The “Dickey Amendment,” a provision within a bill passed by the US Congress in 1996, and fully supported by the NRA, prohibits government funding to research gun violence in the US.  That means that the CDC can not study the affects of gun violence in the community, the use of firearms among different cultures, genders, mental health issues and gun ownership, or ways to prevent gun violence.  Nothing.  It was in direct response to research published in 1993 by the division of the CDC known as the National Center for Injury Prevention, that showed that gun ownership increased the risk of homicide in the home.  The Dickey Amendment redirected >$2 million away from gun violence research for the next 20 years.  In 2011, similar restrictions were applied to the NIH at the urging of the NRA.

Medical professionals on the front lines of the aftermath of gun violence issued a call to action in April of 2015.  They have demanded a concerted effort by the government to research gun violence and institute guidelines.  These professionals include:

  • The American Academy of Family Physicians
  • The American Academy of Pediatricians
  • The American College of Emergency Physicians
  • The American College of Surgeons
  • The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • The American College of Physicians
  • The American Psychiatric Association
  • The American Public Health Association
  • The American Bar Association

In essence these groups of healthcare providers and lawyers expressed the need for research, mental health and background checks for firearm purchases, a ban on assault weapons, and the ability to discuss the dangers of guns with patients.  They also advocated for a fair and confidential way to assess someone prior to labeling them as dangerous and removing their right to own a weapon.  In no way were any of these organizations advocating for a repeal of the Second Amendment.  You get to keep your guns.  Healthcare providers and lawyers just want to make everyone safer.

How are we, as physicians, as Americans, able to make sound decisions, or offer sound advise on a subject that has not been scientifically researched in over 20 years?  The mere fact that a ban has been applied to government funded research on gun violence, makes one wonder what is being hidden and what is being covered up?  There once was a time when no one knew the dangers of drinking and driving, smoking cigarettes, or the harms of drugs in pregnancy. That was a time before research, government-funded research, research by the CDC and other organizations.

The public deserves to know the inherent harm in owning a gun.  At this time, I would have to side with the pro-gun enthusiasts, though.  What’s all the fuss about?  Why is everyone trying to ban guns?  Most people who own guns are upstanding citizens wanting to protect their families.  We have no facts to say otherwise and it’s time that we get the facts.  If we are going to have a real debate about guns, shouldn’t we have all the facts?  It’s time to lift the ban on research and uncover the truth.

Photo credit:  Ozan Uzel




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