Chapter 1 Preface
While newspapers and television newscasts frequently report on the dangers of privately owned guns, gun advocates accuse the media of exaggerating the extent of gun violence in order to gain support for gun control measures. For example, the New York Times reported in 2000 that the “incidence of . . . rampage killings appears to have increased [in the past decade].” However, economists John R. Lott Jr. and William Landes claim that those findings are untrue and assert that “the number [of rampage killings] is not changing much over time.”
The Media Research Center—which documents what it claims to be bias in the media—reviewed gun control stories on several television broadcasts from July 1, 1995, through June 30, 1997. The analysts concluded that antigun stories outnumbered progun stories on the networks by a ratio of eleven to one. Moreover, a national media analysis done by Brian Patrick, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, compared the coverage of the progun National Rifle Association (NRA) in prestigious newspapers. Patrick argues that there is “systematic marginalization of the NRA.”
However, many prominent organizations claim that the media is merely reporting what is true—that widespread private gun ownership in the United States has resulted in extremely high rates of lethal violence. For example, the Violence Policy Center—which provides an array of statistics on gun violence in the United...
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Private Gun Ownership Leads to Higher Rates of Gun Violence
There is a gun crisis in the United States. Between 1933 and 1982, nearly one million Americans were killed by firearms in murders, suicides and accidents. Since 1960 alone, more than half a million have died as the result of gun injuries. In 1992, at least 35,000 died by gunfire. Today, among all consumer products, only cars outpace guns as a cause of fatal injury, and guns will likely pass them by 2003.
The explosion in the country’s homicide and suicide rates has paralleled a corresponding boom in its firearms population. Usually purchased for self-defense, the easily concealable and portable handgun is used in the vast majority of gun violence—even though it is outnumbered two to one by such traditional long guns as sporting rifles and shotguns. The increased popularity of high-caliber, high-capacity semiautomatic handguns—both in standard and assaultweapon configurations—has added to the carnage. “Well, they have more holes in them now,” a Washington trauma surgeon replied when asked to describe the changes he’d seen in gunshot victims over the past decade. “And the holes are a lot bigger.”
In addition to those killed, firearms account for an untabulated number of injuries. In 1972, the National Health Interview Survey estimated that the ratio of nonfatal shootings to fatal was five to one. Using this figure, in 1988 (the most recent year for which complete figures are available), nearly 153,000...
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Private Gun Ownership Does Not Lead to Higher Rates of Gun Violence
Anti-gun advocates present their position as pragmatic and intellectually based, specifically as a program for eliminating the widespread ownership of firearms, a phenomenon they believe to be a (or the) major cause of murder in America. Despite this facade of rationalism, what the anti-gun position actually rests on is intellectual confusion, abetted, it must be said, by a credulous desire to believe. That desire alone explains how believers in the anti-gun faith credulously accept concepts they would instantly reject as absurd in any other context.
Consider the fallacious argument from correlation that so many otherwise intelligent and skeptical people credulously swallowed 30 years ago—and have since never reexamined. For a brief period in the 1960s and early 1970s, the American homicide rate and the number of firearms owned were both rapidly increasing at the same time. The argument seriously advanced then, and consistently maintained ever since by many anti-gun advocates, is that a correlation of more guns and more homicide proves that the widespread availability of guns is a primary cause of murder.
This is a simple-minded confusion of cause and effect. In the late 1970s, California State University economist Joseph Magaddino compared it to a basketball team, noting the correlation that the temperature in the auditorium goes up when their games attract large numbers of spectators—and concluding that the...
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Private Gun Ownership Is a Public-Health Hazard
Thank you for joining me [this evening on June 20, 2001]. It’s my great pleasure to introduce to you the friends, colleagues and family members, without whom, I would not have made it here tonight. And without whose presence, this wouldn’t be a special evening for me.
The Way It Used to Be
I grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, in the 1940’s and 1950’s. My high school was a mosaic of racial and ethnic diversity—equal numbers of blacks and whites, some Puerto Ricans, and a few Asians. We’d fight among ourselves from time to time—sometimes between kids of the same race, sometimes equal opportunity battles between kids of different races and nationalities. Our fights were basically all the same: some yelling and shouting, then some shoving, a couple of punches, and then some amateur wrestling. They weren’t gang fights—everyone but the two combatants just stood around and watched—until one of our teachers came over and broke it up.
My old high school reminds me a little of [the movie] “West Side Story” only without the switchblades or a Leonard Bernstein score. And there were no Sharks or Jets. Remember, those were the days of James Dean and Elvis Presley. Nobody pulled out a gun—none of us had them and no one even thought of having one. The worst wound anyone had after one of those fights was a split lip or a black eye.
It was just like kids have always been—until today. Back then, no parents in...
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Private Gun Ownership Is Not a Public-Health Hazard
Early in the 1990s 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.
It was then that I arrived at the unfortunate but inescapable conclusion 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— because of political expediency. To my consternation and great disappointment, when it came to the portrayal of firearms and violence, and the gun control “research” promulgated by public-health officials, 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 important public policy was being debated and formulated. And this was taking place despite the purported safeguards of peer review in the medical journals, the alleged claims of objectivity by medical editors, and the claims of impartiality by government-funded gun researchers in public health, particularly at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Over the next five years, particularly as editor of the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia,...
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Private Ownership of Handguns Should Be Banned
As terrible as [the May 1999 school] shooting in Atlanta was [in which six students were injured by a gunman], as terrible as all the gun killings of the past few months have been, one has the almost satisfying feeling that the country is going through the literal death throes of a barbaric era and that mercifully soon, one of these monstrous episodes will be the last.1 High time. My guess, in fact, is that the hour has come and gone—that the great majority of Americans are saying they favor gun control when they really mean gun banishment. Trigger locks, waiting periods, purchase limitations, which may seem important corrections at the moment, will soon be seen as mere tinkering with a machine that is as good as obsolete. Marshall McLuhan said that by the time one notices a cultural phenomenon, it has already happened. I think the country has long been ready to restrict the use of guns, except for hunting rifles and shotguns, and now I think we’re prepared to get rid of the damned things entirely—the handguns, the semis and the automatics.
Those who claim otherwise tend to cite America’s enduring love affair with guns, but there never was one. The image of shoot-’em-up America was mainly the invention of gunmaker Samuel Colt, who managed to convince a malleable 19th century public that no household was complete without a firearm—“an armed society is a peaceful society.” This ludicrous aphorism, says historian Michael Bellesiles of Emory...
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Private Gun Ownership Should Not Be Banned
There are times in our lives when many of our most basic assumptions come under a barrage from the heavy artillery of reality. Some of us receive such a wake-up call in the form of a life-threatening event that literally shatters our lives. It is then up to us to do our best to take inventory of the damage to body and soul, pick up the pieces, and start afresh. I would like to tell you, at the time of the anniversary of a horrible encounter that almost killed me, of such a time of reckoning. But first, some background will help.
I was born in Rochester, New York, on the holiest of Jewish Holidays, Yom Kippur. My parents are American-born children of Eastern European Orthodox Jewish immigrants. Had my grandparents chosen to stay in Europe, I would not be around. During World War II, every member of my paternal and maternal families that stayed behind in Galicia and Lithuania died a horrible death at the hands of the Nazis. So we can be counted among the fortunate ones.
My family and I moved to Israel in 1973, a month before the Yom Kippur War. At the time, it seemed strange to see young men and women toting rifles. I quickly learned the reason for this: These young conscripts were the first to leap into action if anything went awry. Almost daily, I heard news accounts—terrifying, chilling stories—about terrorists who invaded high school dormitories, or who stormed into the apartments of regular Israeli...
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