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The doctors' plot

Now it’s the medical profession that’s down on guns. An article in The New England Journal of Medicine, forwarded to me by a medical student, says that gun injuries cost billions in medical expenses annually, that epidemiological studies demonstrate that possession of a gun substantially increases the risk of violent death and that the belief that gun ownership decreases crime is a discredited myth.

Don’t look at me. I’m not a doctor. I already got into enough trouble for imagining that I know something about grammar.



Posted by John McIntyre at 2:28 PM | | Comments (5)


Does not possession of a car increase your likelihood to die in a car wreck? People own lots of instruments that are dangerous, even deadly, if misused.

Talking about automobiles makes thinking of parallels irresistible. Cars are licensed and tagged by the state. People cannot drive them unless they have first passed two tests to prove their competence to operate the mechanism, and they themselves are licensed to operate. And all this for something that is not designed as a weapon.

I think, though, that a more salient point in the Journal article is the contention that people acquire guns without a full understanding of the risks of possessing them, in part because some common beliefs about the safety derived from gun ownership are open to question.

Couldn't one argue that the deceased described in the article's intro was a victim of idiom ignorance as much as he was a victim of gunfire? (i'm kidding)


Automobiles are licensed and tagged by the state for operation on public roads, primarily for identification, and to be sure that they are taxed, ostensibly to help pay for the roads they travel on.

Keep one under you bed, or more realistically, in your back yard, and you never have to pay for another license plate and anyone with the keys can tear up your bed sheets, or more realistically, lawn with it.

My firearms aren't registered and taxed yearly because they don't cost you anything.

I, however, am licensed to carry a concealed firearm out in public just as you are licensed to drive in public. The only place that I know of where that's not true is in Vermont, where anyone can pocket a pistol and head out for the day.

Complaints about the crime rate in Vermont? Anybody?

I'm not crediting the low crime rate there on guns, just showing that there really is no connection between the overall crime rate and the availability or ease of deployment of guns. This I credit to the fact that most crimes are committed by the criminal minority, and not by the law-abiding majority, although there is some cross over.

I approve of states requiring safety training courses as a prerequisite for obtaining a carry license (although I'd probably be allowed not to take it, because of having been in the Army) and proficiency exams (any excuse to hang out at the shooting range), although mine does not.

As to that salient point, what exactly are the risks?

The U.S. Department of Transportation, over at:
places accidental death by firearms in 10th place, after Motor Vehicle, Poisoning, Work Related, Large Trucks, Pedestrian, Drowning, Fires, Motorcycles and Railroads.

It's a dangerous world.

Against this, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, at:
about two-thirds of the way down, under, "Self-defense with firearms," we have a yearly average of 82,500 crimes prevented with firearms in the years 1987 to 1992, with: "About three-fourths of the victims who used firearms for self-defense did so during a crime of violence, 1987-92."

That's 61,675 violent crimes prevented annually with firearms during the period.

Now, we go over to the CDC WISQARS site at:
and check out the Fatal Injury Reports for the same time period. (the Nonfatal Injury Reports only go back to 2000)...

We find a yearly average of 25,531, "Homicide, All injury," deaths

So: More than twice the number of violent crimes were stopped with firearms than the number of similar-cause deaths.

Please feel free to check my math. I always miss the decimal point, so I'm always having to decide if I'm 5.6 years old or 560 years old....

Doctors don't like handguns because they hurt people.

In Britain, where all handguns are illegal and all the rest of the firearms are locked up, seemingly to little affect - check out the Home Office Long-term trends - National recorded crime charts at:

...a similar group of doctors is calling for a ban on sharp, pointy kitchen knives!

The handguns were banned and there was no fall in the crime rate, so the folks in charge started looking for something else to ban to make the people FEEL SAFER!

The banned handguns because of two tragedies in nine years. The banned, "cheap imitation samurai swords," because of one killing that made the news. Scotland banned glass objects in pubs because people were breaking them and causing injury.

It's the, "bread and circuses," of the 21st century. A temporary at best and usually illusory comfort bought at the cost of individual liberty and freedom.

Wikipedia says, at:
... Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man,
the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time
handed out military command, high civil office, legions - everything, now
restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things:
bread and circuses.

There will always be something. Guns. Knives. Baseball bats. Cars. Poisonous chemicals.



Hey, wait.

"About three-fourths of the victims who used firearms for self-defense did so during a crime of violence, 1987-92."

Hoping to keep this about language and not to take (in this forum) sides on gun issues, I gotta ask: By definition of "self-defense," didn't 100% of the people who used firearms for self-defense do so during a crime of violence? Semantically, how can there be "defense" without violence? (Threats fall within the legal definition of assault, so this statistic should include defense against threats.)

And yes, I'd apply the same logic to the "Department of Defense," formerly the Department of War.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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