Speech delivered at the 17th Annual Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP) Meeting
Thank you for your kind introduction. It’s my pleasure to have the opportunity to address this distinguished audience of physician colleagues and fellow scientists in Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP). I want to talk about the issue of scientific integrity in public health and firearm research. This is a topic like many others in which you have only heard one side of the story.
The AMA/CDC/NCIPC Propaganda Axis
In 1991, the American Medical Association (AMA) launched a major campaign against domestic violence, which continues to this day. As a concerned physician, neurosurgeon, and then an active member of organized medicine, I joined in what I considered a worthwhile cause, and it was then, while researching the seemingly interrelated topics of domestic violence and street crime, and attempting to find workable solutions (as supported by the available scientific literature), that I came to the inescapable conclusion and appalling reality that honesty and that the integrity of science and medicine had been violated, and the public interest was not being served by the entrenched medical/public health establishment. When it came to the portrayal of firearms and violence, and the gun control “research” promulgated by public health officials — to my consternation and great disappointment — it was obvious that the medical literature was biased, riddled with serious errors in facts, logic and methodology, and thus utterly unreliable. Moreover, it had failed to objectively address both sides of this momentous issue, on which very important public policy was being debated and formulated. And this was taking place despite the purported safeguards of peer-review in the medical journals and the alleged claims to objectivity by their editors and claims of impartiality by government-funded gun researchers in public health, particularly at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What I actually found, over the subsequent 5 years, particularly as editor of the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia, which I recount in my latest book, Medical Warrior (1997) [Slide 1], was, frankly, that when it came to the issue of violence, medical journals had skirted sound scholarship and taken the easy way out of the mêlée, presenting only one side of the story, and suppressing the other. Those with dissenting views or with research concluding with a contrarian or dissenting view to those of the medical and public health establishment were censored. With the issue of firearms and violence, the establishment was bent on presenting the view of guns as a social ill and promoting draconian gun control at any price. This can be seen in the sensationalized graphics of the covers of various medical journals [Slides 2, 3, 4, 5]. Incidentally, Jean Paul Marat who was assassinated during the French Revolution was stabbed to death in his bathtub — not shot. I suppose the bloody artistic depiction used here, as cover for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is journalistic license at work.
And the most prestigious medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), which claims openness to contrary views, is not immune to bias in the area of guns and violence. In fact, it is one of the most anti-gun, health advocacy publications in medical journalism [Slide 6]. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) routinely practices hermetically tight censorship, excluding articles dissenting with its well-known, strident and inflexible position of gun control advocacy.
In “Bad Medicine — Doctors and Guns,” for example, Kates and associates describe a particularly egregious example of censorship and editorial policy bias by The New England Journal of Medicine: In 1989, two studies were independently submitted for publication to NEJM. Both authors were affiliated with the University of Washington School of Public Health. One study by Dr. John H. Sloan was a selective two-city comparison of homicide rates between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle, Washington. The other paper was a comprehensive comparison study between the U.S. and Canada by Dr. Brandon Centerwall. Predictably, the editors of the NEJM chose to publish Sloan et al’s article with inferior but favorable data claiming erroneously that severe gun control policies had reduced Canadian homicides and rejected Centerwall’s superior study showing that such policies had not affected the rate of homicides in Canada. The homicide rates were lower in Vancouver before the restrictive gun control laws had been passed in Canada and, in fact, rose after the laws were passed. The Vancouver homicide rate increased 25 percent after the implementation of the 1977 Canadian law. [Slide 7] Moreover, Sloan and associates glossed over the disparate ethnic compositions of Seattle and Vancouver. When the rates of homicides for whites are compared, in both of these cities, it turns out that the rate of homicide in Seattle is actually lower than in Vancouver [Slide 8]. The important fact, that blacks and Hispanics, who constitute higher proportions of the population in Seattle, have higher rates of homicides in that city was not mentioned by these investigators.
Dr. Centerwall’s paper on the comparative rates of homicides in the U.S. and Canada was finally published in the Journal of Epidemiology, but his valuable research, unlike that of Sloan and his group, was not made widely available to the public.
In contradistinction to his valuable gun research data, Centerwall’s other research pointing to the effects of TV violence on homicide rates has been made widely available; his data exculpating gun availability from high homicide rates in this country remains a closely guarded secret.
The side of this debate that is being censored in the medical and public health literature, despite the accumulating body of knowledge and the preponderance of scientific evidence, is the side dealing with the beneficial aspects of firearms and the benefits of citizen self-protection. Instead of providing a balanced and fair approach based on truth and objectivity, the medical literature safely echoes the politically correct emotionalism of the popular media and parrots the rhetoric of gun control advocates. Sadly, my profession — which had been one of the torch bearers of scientific and technologic discoveries in the 19th and 20th century — today thwarts free inquiry in public health in the area of guns and violence research. Needless to say, censorship and biased research in this area impairs the necessary free flow and exchange of information that is essential for academic freedom and scientific progress in a free society.
As I will reveal, the entrenched medical/public health establishment, acting as a willing accomplice of the gun control lobby, conducted politicized, results-oriented gun (control) research based on what can only be characterized as junk science.
Why? Because gun control is the pasture where a segment of the public health’s milk cow, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), was grazing. In other words, that was where the money allocated by the present administration was headed; after all, Midnight Basketball, the federalization of the police force, erosion of civil liberties, and gun control have been the centerpieces of President Clinton’s domestic crime control policy.
But how was an agency like the CDC/NCIPC able to get in the gun control business? Simply, by propounding the erroneous notion that gun violence is a public health issue and that crime is a disease, an epidemic — rather than a major facet of criminology. The public so deluded and the bureaucrats so empowered, public health and CDC officials arrogated to themselves this new area of non-developed expertise and now espouse the preposterous but politically-lucrative concept of guns and bullets as animated, virulent pathogens, needing to be stamped out by limiting gun availability, and ultimately, eradicating guns from law-abiding citizens. Hard to believe! Let me cite the following statement by CDC official, Dr. Patrick O’Carroll as quoted in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA; February 3,1989):
“Bringing about gun control, which itself covers a variety of activities from registration to confiscation was not the specific reason for the section’s creation. However, the facts themselves tend to make some form of regulation seem desirable. The way we’re going to do this is to systematically build a case that owning firearms causes death.” Although, in a letter to the editor, Dr. O’Carroll later claimed he was misquoted, Doctors for Integrity in Policy Research (DIPR), an association of physicians and scientists from academia and the private sector, which monitors federally-funded research to prevent flawed information from impacting adversely on public policy, points out that Dr. O’Carroll does not claim to be misquoted when in the same article, he blurted, “We are doing the most we can do, given the political realities.”
Public health officials and researchers conveniently neglect the fact that guns and bullets are inanimate objects which do not follow Koch’s Postulates of Pathogenicity (time-proven, simple but logical, series of scientific steps carried out by medical investigators to definitively prove a microorganism is pathogenic and directly responsible for causing a particular disease); and they fail to recognize the importance of individual responsibility and moral conduct — viz, that behind every shooting there is a person pulling the trigger, and who should be held accountable. The portrayal of guns in the medical literature by the public health establishment parallels the sensationalized violence reporting and so-called “human interest” stories in the mainstream media and exploits citizens’ understandable concern for domestic violence and rampant street crime, but does not reflect accurate, unbiased, and objective information that is needed for the formulation of sound public policy.
Despite a surfeit of scientific and epidemiologic studies in the sociologic, legal, and criminologic literature that discuss the benefits of firearm possession by law-abiding citizens — physicians, scientists, and the general public have not been informed about this information by the CDC’s NCIPC and its outlets — the medical journals, especially the AMA publications and The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). In most instances, the public health and medical establishment have become, in fact, mouth pieces of the administration’s gun control policies.
As former editor of a state medical journal, I felt then, and as Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), [Slide 9] I feel now, a deep sense of moral duty and professional obligation to inform the concerned and vigilant citizens of our great Republic, about this Orwellian iniquity and Newspeak, which preaches tolerance but practices intolerance, and effectively censors one side of the debate — namely, the accumulating body of research pointing out the beneficial aspects of gun ownership by law-abiding citizens. This body of evidence has been sequestered by the concerted action of organized medicine (led by the AMA), the medical journals, public health officials, and the new schools of public health sprouting out of the various academic centers and funded by the new public-private partnerships of government and some of the largest, non-profit, private foundations (e.g., Joyce, MacArthur, and Robert Wood Johnson foundations).
Faulty and Biased Research
Let me cite one egregious example of the AMA sponsoring faulty and bias research in 1993 impacting detrimentally on public policy. An otherwise usually responsible AMA’s Council of Scientific Affairs displayed sloppy scholarship, when it endorsed, on the basis of “scientific research,” the ban on so-called assault weapons. [Slide 10] Obviously, the Council had a public relations ax to grind rather than expert knowledge of the sciences of criminology and ballistics. Instead of doing its own scholarly work or at least relying on the work of experts such as Dr. Martin Fackler, the foremost wound ballistic expert in the United States, it unfortunately relied, for political purposes, on unscientific data and even sensationalized newspaper articles, one of which claimed that watermelons fired upon with “assault weapons” are appropriate human tissue simulants to demonstrate wound ballistics! It has been pointed out, correctly, I may add, that if that were the case, an 18″ drop of a watermelon, perhaps, would also be appropriate for the study of head injuries!
But let us return to public health scholarship and gun research, and in this regard, let me point out that public funding of the NCIPC’s gun control research has been misused and squandered. As one example, I will cite the work of one prominent gun control researcher, Dr. Arthur Kellermann of Emory University School of Public Health. Since at least the mid-1980s, Dr. Kellermann (and associates), whose work has been heavily-funded by the CDC, published a series of studies purporting to show that persons who keep guns in the home are more likely to be victims of homicide than those who don’t. Despite the “peer reviewed” imprimatur of his published research, his studies, fraught with errors of facts, logic, and methodology, are published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) with great fanfare (i.e. advanced notices and press releases are sent, followed by arranged interviews and press conferences — all compliments of JAMA and the AMA and thanks to the war against domestic violence) and to the delight of the like-minded, cheerleading, monolithic pro-gun control mainstream media.
In a 1986 NEJM paper, Dr. Kellermann and associates, for example, claimed their “scientific research” proved that defending oneself or one’s family with a firearm in the home is dangerous and counter productive, claiming “a gun owner is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder.” This erroneous assertion is what has been accurately termed Kellermann’s “43 times fallacy” for gun ownership by Dr. Edgar Suter, Chairman of DIPR.
In a critical review and now classic article published in the March 1994 issue of the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia (JMAG), [Slide 11] Dr. Suter not only found evidence of “methodologic and conceptual errors,” such as prejudicially truncated data and non-sequitor logic, but also “overt mendacity,” including the listing of “the correct methodology which was described but never used by the authors.” Moreover, the gun control researchers failed to consider and “deceptively understated” the protective benefits of guns. Dr. Suter writes: “The true measure of the protective benefits of guns are the lives and medical costs saved, the injuries prevented, and the property protected — not the burglar or rapist body count. Since only 0.1% to 0.2% of defensive uses of guns involve the death of the criminal, any study, such as this, that counts criminal deaths as the only measure of the protective benefits of guns will expectedly underestimate the benefits of firearms by a factor of 500 to 1,000.”
In 1993, in another peer-reviewed NEJM article (and the research, again, heavily funded by the CDC), Dr. Kellermann attempted to show that guns in the home are a greater risk to the victims than to the assailants [Slide 12]. Despite valid criticisms by reputable scholars of his previous works (including the 1986 study), Dr. Kellermann ignored the criticisms and again used the same flawed methodology and non-sequitor logic. He also used study populations with disproportionately high rates of serious psychosocial dysfunction from three selected state-counties, known to be unrepresentative of the general U.S. population. For example, 53% of the case subjects had a history of a household member being arrested, 31% had a household history of illicit drug use, 32% had a household member hit or hurt in a family fight, and 17% had a family member hurt so seriously in a domestic altercation that prompt medical attention was required. Moreover, both the case studies and control groups in this analysis had a very high incidence of financial instability. In fact, in this study, gun ownership, the supposedly high risk factor for homicide was not one of the most strongly associated factors for being murdered. Drinking, illicit drugs, living alone, history of family violence, living in a rented home were all greater individual risk factors for being murdered than a gun in the home. There is no basis to apply the conclusions of this study, erroneous as they may be, to the general population.
Needless to say, all of these are factors that, as Dr. Suter pointed out, “would expectedly be associated with higher rates of violence and homicide.” It goes without saying, the results of such a study on gun homicides, selecting this sort of unrepresentative population sample, nullify the authors’ generalizations, and their preordained, unscientific conclusions can not be extrapolated to the general population.
And, most importantly, Dr. Kellermann and his associates again failed to consider the protective benefits of firearms, and in this 1993 study, arrived at the “2.7 times fallacy.” In other words, this time they downsized their fallacy and claimed a family member is 2.7 times more likely to kill another family member than an intruder. Yet, a fallacy is still a fallacy and, as such, it deserves no place in scientific investigations and peer-reviewed, medical publications. Interestingly, the media and gun control groups still cling to the “43 times fallacy” and repeatedly invoke the erroneous mantra that “a gun owner is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder.”
Although the 1993 New England Journal of Medicine study purported to show that the homicide victims were killed with a gun ordinarily kept in the home, the fact is that as Kates and associates showed in David Kopel’s book, Guns: Who Should Have Them? [Slide 13] 71.1 percent of the victims were killed by assailants who didn’t live in the victims’ household using guns presumably not kept in that home.
While Kellermann and associates began with 444 cases of homicides in the home, cases were dropped from the study for a variety of reasons, and in the end, only 316 matched pairs were used in the final analysis, representing only 71.2 percent of the original 444 homicide cases.
This reduction increased tremendously the chance for sampling bias. Analysis of why 28.8 percent of the cases were dropped would have helped ascertain if the study was compromised by the existence of such biases, but Dr. Kellermann, in an unprecedented move, refused to release his data and make it available for other researchers to analyze.
As Kates and associates point out, “The validity of the NEJM 1993 study’s conclusions depend on the control group matching the homicide cases in every way (except, of course, for the occurrence of the homicide).”
However, in this study, the controls collected did not match the cases in many ways (i.e., for example, in the amount of substance abuse, single parent versus two parent homes, etc.) contributing to further untoward effects, and decreasing the inference that can legitimately be drawn from the data of this study. [Slide 14]
Be that as it may, as Kates and his associates assert: “The conclusion that gun ownership is a risk factor for homicide derived from the finding of a gun in 45.4 percent of the homicide case households, but in only 35.8 percent of the control household. Whether that finding is accurate, however, depends in the truthfulness of control group interviewees in admitting the presence of a gun or guns in the home.”
Professor Gary Kleck has written extensively that false denial of gun ownership is a major problem in these studies, and yet Kellermann and associates do not admit or mention this fact. And this is critical. It would take only 35 of the 388 controls falsely denying gun ownership to make the control gun ownership percentage equal that of the homicide case households. As Kates and associates write, “If indeed, the controls actually had gun ownership equal to that of the homicide case households (45.4 percent), then a false denial rate of only 20.1 percent among the gun owning controls would produce the thirty-five false denials and thereby equalize ownership.”
Consider the fact that Kellermann and associates’ pilot study had a higher percent false denial rate than the 20.1 percent required to invalidate their own study, and yet, he and his associates concluded that there was no “underreporting of gun ownership by their control respondents,” and their estimates, they claim were, therefore, considered not biased.
In the Medical Sentinel, we have considered this type of bias* in response to a JAMA 1996 gun ownership survey. We reported on question #20 of that survey: “If asked by a pollster whether I owned firearms, I would be truthful? 29.6 percent disagreed/strongly disagreed.” So according to this survey, 29.6 percent would falsely deny owning a firearm. Prof. Kleck has noted that one major flaw in survey-based estimates of the gun stock is that some respondents intentionally conceal their gun ownership.
These premeditated errors invalidated the findings of the 1993 Kellermann study, just as they tainted those of 1986. Nevertheless, these errors have crept into and now permeate the lay press, the electronic media, and particularly, the medical journals, where they remain uncorrected and are repeated time and again as gospel. And, because the publication of the data (and their purported conclusions) supposedly come from “reliable” sources and objective medical researchers, it’s given a lot of weight and credibility by practicing physicians, social scientists (who should know better), social workers, law enforcement, and particularly gun-banning politicians.
What we do know, thanks to the meticulous and sound scholarship of Professor Gary Kleck of Florida State University, and Doctors for Integrity in Policy Research (DIIPR), is that the benefits of gun ownership by law-abiding citizens have been greatly underestimated. In his monumental work, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America (1991), myriads of publications, and his latest book, Targeting Guns (1997) [Slide 15], Professor Kleck found that the defensive uses of firearms by citizens amount to 2.5 million uses per year and dwarf the offensive gun uses by criminals. [Slide 16] Between 25-75 lives are saved by a gun for every life lost to a gun. Medical costs saved by guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens are 15 times greater than costs incurred by criminal uses of firearms. Guns also prevent injuries to good people and protect billions of dollars of property every year.
Incidentally, the health care costs incurred by gun shootings have been greatly exaggerated. DIPR, in an article published while I was editor in the June 1995 issue of the JMAG [Slide 17], estimated that the actual U.S. health care costs of treating gunshot wounds is approximately $1.5 billion which amounts to 0.2% of annual health care expenditures. The $20-$40 billion figure, so frequently cited by the mass media, and even medical journals, is an exaggerated estimate of lifetime productivity lost where criminal predators are given inflated life productivity estimates, as if their careers were suddenly expected to blossom into that of pillars of the community with projected salaries equaling those of managed care CEOs. Yet, despite these major detractions, the health advocacy establishment clings to the erroneous figures and extrapolations of Dr. Kellermann and other public health researchers, and use these erroneous figures and invalid claims in propounding health and gun control policies, to the detriment of the public and the sufferance of the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
Recent data by Dr. John R. Lott, Jr. at the University of Chicago in his book More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws (1998) [Slide 18] has also been suppressed from dissemination in the medical journals and public health literature, unless you are, of course, a reader of the Medical Sentinel. In his book, Prof. Lott studied the FBI’s massive yearly crime statistics for all 3,054 U.S. counties over 18 years (1977-1994), the largest national survey on gun ownership and state police documentation in illegal gun use, and comes to some startling conclusions: [Slide 19]
1. While neither state waiting periods nor the federal Brady Law is associated with a reduction in crime rates, adopting concealed carry gun laws cut death rates from public, multiple shootings (e.g., as those which took place in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Springfield, Oregon, in 1998, the recent Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, or the 1993 shooting on the Long Island Subway) — by a whopping 69 percent.
2. Allowing people to carry concealed weapons deters violent crime — without any apparent increase in accidental death. If states without right to carry laws had adopted them in 1992, about 1,570 murders, 4,177 rapes, and 60,000 aggravated assaults would have been avoided annually.
3. Children 14 to 15 years of age are 14.5 times more likely to die from automobile injuries, 5 times more likely to die from drowning or fire and burns, and 3 times more likely to die from bicycle accidents than they are to die from gun accidents. [Slide 20]
4. Professor Lott found that when concealed carry laws went into effect in a given county, murders fell by 8%, rapes by 5%, and aggravated assaults by 7%.
5. For each additional year concealed carry gun laws have been in effect, the murder rate declines by 3 percent, robberies by over 2 percent, and rape by 1 percent.
Let me say a word about suicide and gun availability. [Slide 21] Both Drs. Kellermann and Sloan have written about suicides and have attempted to link these fatalities to the availability of guns in articles published in The New England Journal of Medicine and other medical publications.
In reality, the overwhelming available evidence compiled from the discipline of psychiatry is that untreated or poorly managed depression is the real culprit behind the high rates of suicide. From the social science of criminology we solve the seeming paradox that countries such as Japan, Hungary, and Scandinavia which boast draconian gun control laws have much higher rates of suicide (2 or 3 times higher) than the U.S. In these countries where guns are not readily available, citizens simply substitute [Slide 22] for guns other cultural or universally available methods for killing oneself such as Hara-kiri in Japan, drowning in the Blue Danube, suffocation (with poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide), or simply hanging. And in these countries, citizens commit suicide by these methods at higher rates than in the U.S.
Within the context of gun availability, much has been said about the “crimes of passion” [Slide 23] that supposedly take place impulsively, in the heat of the night or the furor of a domestic squabble. Criminologists have pointed out that homicides in this setting are the culmination of a long simmering cycle of violence. In one study of the police records in Detroit and Kansas City it was revealed, for example, that in “90 percent of domestic homicides, the police had responded at least once before during the prior two years to a disturbance,” and in over 50 percent of the cases, the police had been called five or more times to that dysfunctional domicile. Surely, these are not crimes of passion consummated impulsively in the heat of the night, but the result of violence in highly dysfunctional families in the setting of repeated alcohol or illicit drug use; it is also the setting of abusive husbands who after a long history of spousal abuse finally commit murder, and increasingly, wives defending themselves against those abusive husbands, representing acts of genuine self-defense.
Another favorite view of the gun control, public health establishment is the myth propounded by Dr. Mark Rosenberg. He wrote: “Most of the perpetrators of violence are not criminals by trade or profession. Indeed, in the area of domestic violence, most of the perpetrators are never accused of any crime. The victims and perpetrators are ourselves — ordinary citizens, students, professionals, and even public health workers.” That statement is contradicted by available data, government data. [Slide 24] The fact is that the typical murderer has had a prior criminal history of at least six years with four felony arrests in his record before he finally commits murder. [Slide 25] The FBI statistics reveal that 75 percent of all violent crimes for any locality are committed by six percent of hardened criminals and repeat offenders. Less than 2 percent of crimes committed with firearms are carried out by licensed law-abiding citizens.
[Slide 26] Violent crimes continue to be a problem in the inner cities with gangs involved in the drug trade and hardened criminals. Crimes in rural areas for both blacks and whites, despite the preponderance of guns in this setting, remain low. [Slide 27] Gun availability does not cause crime. Prohibitionist government policies and gun control (rather than crime control) exacerbates the problem by making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves, their families, and their property. The graph shows a modest increase, not a decrease, in both homicide and suicide after prohibition and passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968.
[Slide 28] National Victims Data suggests that “while victims resisting with knives, clubs, or bare hands are about twice as likely to be injured as those who submit, victims who resist with a gun are only half as likely to be injured as those who put up no defense.” [Slide 29] Of particular interest to women and self-defense, “among those victims using handguns in self-defense, 66 percent of them were successful in warding off the attack and keeping their property. Among those victims using non-gun weapons, only 40 percent were successful. The gun is the great equalizer for women when they are accosted in the street or when they, particularly single mothers, are defending themselves and their children at home.
A Sinister Objective
But let us return to public health and gun research. Why this faulty research and concealment of this valuable, potentially life-saving information? In a comprehensive and widely discussed Tennessee Law Review article and a major chapter in Guns: Who Should Have Them (1995) edited by criminologist David Kopel [Slide 30], legal scholar Don B. Kates and associates declare: “Based on studies, and propelled by leadership from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the objective [of public health] has broadened so that it now includes banning and confiscation of all handguns, restrictive licensing of owners of other firearms and eventual elimination of all firearms from American life, excepting (perhaps) only a small elite of extremely wealthy collectors, hunters or target shooters. This is the case in many European countries.”
As a physician and medical historian, I have always been a staunch supporter of public health in its traditional role of fighting pestilential diseases and promoting health by educating the public as to hygiene, sanitation, and preventable diseases, as alluded to in my book, Vandals at the Gates of Medicine; [Slide 31] but I deeply resent the workings of that unrecognizable part of public health, incarnated in the NCIPC with its politicized agenda and proclivity towards censorship, preordained research, that is tainted, result-oriented and based on junk science.
More Smoking Guns
For example, at the Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan (acronym HELP) held in Chicago, Illinois in 1993 (and again in 1995), NCIPC researchers and staff were faculty for this “strategy conference” in which “like-minded individuals who represent organizations…[the goal of which is to] use a public health model to work toward changing society’s attitude so that it becomes socially unacceptable for private citizens to have guns.” Dr. Katherine Christoffel, one of the founders of this conference is well known for her anti-firearms activism and her profoundly revealing statements. For example, she has reached prominence and notoriety for her sensationalistic media sound bytes:
“…Guns are a virus that must be eradicated. We need to immunize ourselves against them.” And “…Get rid of the cigarettes, get rid of the secondhand smoke, and you get rid of lung disease. It’s the same with guns. Get rid of the guns, get rid of the bullets, and you get rid of deaths.”
When the University of Iowa sponsored a conference in 1992 on firearms violence, that confab was also funded in part with CDC/NCIPC funds which had previously been allocated to the study of rural injuries and farm occupational hazards [Slide 32]; moreover, the only non-academic faculty member invited was Sarah Brady of Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI). The conference, subsequently entitled “National Violence Prevention Conference — Bridging Science and Program” reconvened in 1995, using again, the same type of funding. In his invocation to the conference, Dr. Mark L. Rosenberg, Director of the NCIPC who served as Chairman of the Executive Planning Committee vaunted, “Violence in America has reached epidemic proportions and presents our nation with a public health challenge as great as we have faced in the past…We believe that violence in our homes and communities is a great public health challenge that our nation can face and overcome as we enter the next millennium.”
In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to all members of the House, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), who sponsored the Dickey Amendment, revealed what the NCIPC director said about the political agenda of his own agency: ‘What we have to do is find a socially acceptable form of gun control.’ ” And, in a letter to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), several senators who supported an effort to curtail NCIPC’s anti-gun activities also noted that NCIPC Director Dr. Mark Rosenberg had stated that he “envisions a long-term campaign, similar to tobacco use and auto safety, to convince Americans that guns are, first and foremost, a public health menace.”
In the case of Dr. Kellermann, it was reported that during his formal presentation at the (October 17, 1993) HELP conference, in an emotional moment admitted his personal anti-gun bias (a bias that, as we have seen, is evident in the pattern of his research). [Slide 33] Although in a letter to the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia, Kellermann denied making such a statement at that specific meeting, he did not actually repudiate his general anti-gun bias. Dr. Kellermann’s elitism (and true appreciation of the value of a gun for self-protection), nevertheless, is well encapsulated in the following retort directed at a question by a reporter and quoted in the San Francisco Examiner (April 3, 1994): “If that were my wife [being attacked], would I want her to have a .38 Special in her hand? ‘Yeah,’ says Dr. Kellermann.”
On March 6, 1996, three physicians (Drs. William Waters, Timothy Wheeler, and myself; representing two physician organizations and clearly indicating that the AMA/CDC/NCIPC axis does not represent the views of all physicians, together with noted criminologist and legal scholar Don B. Kates, were given the opportunity to testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. [Slide 34]
We testified about the misrepresentation of data, skewed study populations (as to selection and extrapolations), inappropriate research models for the subject under study, and arrival to preordained conclusions (i.e., results-oriented research) — all evident in the immensely shoddy “gun (control) research” conducted by the CDC/NCIPC. The panel was also informed about how the NCIPC researchers breach accepted scientific practice by refusing to release and make available to other researchers their publicly funded, original data for further critical analysis.
We recommended that the committee eliminate all funding for the NCIPC for the fiscal year of 1997, and thereby realize a savings to taxpayers of nearly $50 million annually — and most importantly, effecting a major step forward, towards liberating science from the oppressing claws of politics.
Although we were not able to close the doors of the NCIPC, our efforts culminated in a significant defeat for the gun-prohibitionists in public health by the House of Representatives that July of 1996. The House voted to shift $2.6 million away from the NCIPC and earmarked the funds for other health research projects. The redirected funding was the amount formerly allocated by the NCIPC to their discredited “gun (control) research.” Dr. Kellermann’s gun research was defunded by the CDC, and he is now conducting research on the benefits and need for motorcycle helmets.
The successfully passed Dickey Amendment, which de-funded the NCIPC’s anti-gun initiative, hopefully will effect a major step toward restoring integrity to public health and perhaps, returning it to its former traditional role of stamping out infectious diseases and epidemics. Although, the re-direction of $2.6 million away from NCIPC seems a modest attempt to restore the integrity of public health research, it also sends the greater symbolic message: [Slide 35] that citizens, including many scientists and physicians, are not going to sit idly by and allow the perversion of science and medical research for political ends.
Nevertheless, the jury is still out. Whether this victory is fleeting and evanescent or definitive and long lasting is yet to be seen. I urge every one of you to remain informed and vigilant on this issue. As Thomas Jefferson once said: “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
Speech delivered by Dr. Miguel Faria
Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D. is Editor emeritus of the Medical Sentinel and author of Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (1995), Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997), and Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002).
This article may be cited as: Faria MA. The Perversion of Science and Medicine: Gun Control and Public Health. HaciendaPublishing.com, June 4, 1999. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/the-perversion-of-science-and-medicine-gun-control-and-public-health/.
Copyright ©1999 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.