NEJM: Political Agendae and Presumption of Guilt

Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.“–Benjamin Franklin

According to Science Daily, Dr. Garen Wintermute is having a gun control article, published in last month’s New England Journal of Medicine, republished in the upcoming edition of the same magazine. In fact, both Science Daily and NEJM regularly publish anti-firearm articles, even though they really don’t fall under the stated goals of either organization. The fact that the publishers of these periodicals allow what should be vehicles for science to be used as vehicles for the statistical abuses and irrational arguments of the “gun control” crowd is one of the primary reasons that “science without agendae” is at the header of this blog. While I certainly have no problem with physicians being able to speak their moral consciences, the stated goal of NEJM is to bring the latest research and clinical practice to physicians. It should not be the soapbox for unscientific political rants. Let’s examine what Dr. Wintermute (director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program and inaugural Susan P. Baker-Stephen P. Teret Chair in Violence Prevention at UC Davis) has to say:

“To reduce the number of deaths and injuries from firearms in the United States, we need to develop policies that require background checks for all firearm purchases, including private-party sales — the most important source of firearms for criminal buyers and others who are prohibited from purchasing guns,”

Before asking ourselves how valid this statement is, we have another question to ask: what is the significant difference between requiring background checks for “all private purchases of firearms”, and requiring background checks for “all private purchases”? There is none, unless one believes that a particular class of inanimate object (firearms) is somehow metaphysically different from all other classes of inanimate objects. At best, this is magical thinking on behalf of someone who should have enough scientific training and education not to fall prey to such; at worst, it is a call for the end of the Second and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, and the presumption of innocence in American jurisprudence. All of that not withstanding, the above statement is not valid. The preponderance of evidence clearly demonstrates that the more restricted access to firearms becomes for the average, law-abiding citizen, the higher the rate of violent crime in the community becomes.

“We need to prevent individuals with a previous conviction for a misdemeanor violent crime, such as assault and battery, from purchasing or possessing a firearm.”

“Wintermute’s research has shown that among persons who purchase firearms legally, those with a previous conviction for a misdemeanor violent crime are roughly nine times as likely as those with no criminal history to be arrested for a violent crime later.”

Wintermute begs several questions here: for example, how does the population “persons who purchase firearms illegally” compare to compare the population in general regarding recidivism to violent crime? More importantly, if the ‘later violent crime’ actually involved firearms, Dr. Wintermute would certainly have said so. Therefore, what do these statistics have to do with firearms at all? Again, Dr. Wintermute is inferring some magical power of firearms to turn ordinary people into psychotic murderers.

Also consider the highly capricious nature of misdemeanor laws across the United States. Reporter David Gregory recently displayed a *ahem* “high-capacity” magazine during a news broadcast in Washington D.C. As a firearms-related offense, any pro-gun control judge could easily deem this a “violent crime”, and therefore debar Mr. Gregory from ever owning a firearm—because he held up an inert piece of metal. It would be much more reasonable to prevent anyone who ever had a DUI from holding a driver’s license–there is at least a direct link with the crime, possible loss of life, and specific class of inanimate object. But it is not reasonable, nor is it reasonable to debar American citizens from any otherwise legal private property, based on a presumption of future guilt.

“We also need to develop better data and criteria that allow us to distinguish between those with a treatable mental disorder who do not have a history of violence from those with a history of violence or substance abuse,”

As a physician, Dr. Wintermute should be intimately familiar with HIPAA. Even given perfect criteria and perfect recognition, none of these details are going to be available for background checks under current law. Improving the quality of information is only relevant for those who have access to it; since it won’t be the people actually selling firearms (especially during the ‘private purchases’ Dr. Wintermute so despises), to what purpose does he believe this information should be collected?

According to Wintermute, the United States represents only 5 percent of the world’s population, but it owns more than 40 percent of all firearms that are in civilians’ hands.

This is a fact of which we, as citizens of the United States, should be deeply proud. When has disarming a free people ever resulted in a better society? Even in reasonably benevolent nations like the UK and Australia, violent crime rose over 40% following the confiscation of private property (firearms) by the government. That’s the best case; you must also consider what happens to political dissidents following confiscation under most governments which enact it: the former USSR, NAZI Germany, PRC, etc. My oft-repeated quotation of Aristotle comes immediately to mind.

“In addition, he believes that policies governing gun purchases and use have allowed the widest possible array of firearms to be available to the widest group of people, for use under the widest array of conditions.”

Yes, that would be the definition of “shall not be infringed”. Well, almost. Given the historical trend for violent crime to be dramatically reduced as State laws are changed to more closely resemble the Constitutional intent of an armed citizenry, and the fact that the areas of strictest gun control have the highest rates of violent crime (cf. Chicago, schools across the nation, etc.), I am uncertain what the doctor’s intent is in complicating peoples’ access to the best possible tool for crime prevention and lifesaving. Especially note that Connecticut has the fourth most stringent gun control laws in the nation, to the praise of the Brady Campaign.

“Stand Your Ground” laws, enacted at the state(sic) level, as dangerous experiments that have been used to legitimize shootings that once were considered to be murder.”

This is an interesting point. Dr. Wintermute believes that if you are forced to take the life of an intruder to save the lives of your family in you r own home, you should be charged with murder. This is why I refer to “pacifism” as a life-negating philosophy; to the pacifist, it is better that your entire family be murdered, and the murderer remain at large to continue his actions, than for you use necessary force to stop him. The only form of self-defense which may reasonably be inferred from the above statement about “Stand Your Ground” laws is to die, so that your assailant cannot hurt you anymore. The idea of preventing crime by making widely available the threat of immediate mortal danger to violent criminals is not even considered.

“…we can change our firearms laws, based on existing evidence, to reduce harm and better ensure public safety,”

This is an absolutely true statement. Unfortunately, Dr. Wintermute insists on ignoring existing evidence to push for a confiscation of private property and end the right to self-defense, both of which have been demonstrated to lead to far greater violence and loss-of-life in every society in which they are enacted.

”In California, the denial policy reduced the risk of violence and firearm-related crime by 23 percent among those whose purchases were denied.”

It is incredible to me that Dr. Wintermute thinks that this actually supports his gun control agenda. So, by totally ignoring the Second and Fourth amendments, and treating American citizens with the presumption of future guilt to prohibit them from obtaining an otherwise-legal class of private property, the total reduction in crime requiring access to that class of property was reduced by less than one-quarter. Compare this to Florida, where increasing availability of firearms to the ordinary citizen led to a reduction of 20% of all violent crime, not just that requiring access to firearms.

“Wintemute also notes that proposals for comprehensive background checks and denials for misdemeanor violence and for alcohol abuse enjoy broad public support, including among firearm owners. Survey data come from Wintemute’s own research as well as a series of public polls conducted for the Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”

Yes, and survey data taken by wolves clearly demonstrate that sheep enjoy being eaten alive. Leaving alone the ludicrous level of bias in the polling agencies, and the question of how many “gun owners” participate in any way on either site, we are not some lunatic democracy to be run on mob rule. We are a Republic with a Constitution in place to protect our rights.

The facts are these: as citizens of the Unites States, our Constitution affirms our right to own firearms without restriction (the Second Amendment), as well as the right not to have our persons or properly unfairly searched and seized (the Fourth Amendment). Self-defense is a basic human right, and presumption of innocence is a foundational point of American jurisprudence. Dr. Wintermute and his colleagues are so convinced of their elite stature, that they feel justified in depriving of all of these rights–and whatever other rights they might later decide must be removed, for the good of the poor sheep. But the surest safeguard of every human life is that person himself. To act effectively in any endeavor, one must use the correct tools; how much more true when that endeavor is the saving of human lives?

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