Bioethics Discussion Blog: Need for Well Regulated Civilian Militia vs Public Health

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Need for Well Regulated Civilian Militia vs Public Health

The Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."



From The Huffington Post
But just when you think he can't go any lower, President Bush always finds a way to outdo himself. Today, in the wake of the incomprehensible slaughter of thirty-three students at Virginia Tech, the president sent out his spokeswoman to - first and foremost - defend the killer.

"The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms," said Perino, in the first White House response, adding the utterly meaningless "but that all laws must be followed," thus nipping in the bud any crazy attempt to use this incident to have a discussion about gun rights in the United States.

Well, thank Heavens someone's looking out for the Second Amendment while everyone else is losing their heads.


Another comment by a politician today:

Senator John McCain said today "We have to look at what happened here, but it doesn't change my views on the Second Amendment, except to make sure that these kinds of weapons don't fall into the hands of bad people," "I do believe in the constitutional right that everyone has, in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to carry a weapon...Obviously we have to keep guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens."

A physician ethicist wrote the following today on a bioethics listserv:
"59 millions adults in the US own a gun. 49 million households have a gun. 700,000 violent gun crimes in the US each year. Impulse killing is by far the greatest cause of gun deaths. There are 4 articles on medical ethics and guns in the last couple decades; face transplants is much more important than the proliferation of tools to blow away a face or a lovely student."

So what does this mean? Are guns and the known consequences of their use literally a public health and ethical issue and should measures be taken to change the habits of the U.S. public away from guns just as smoking habits are being changed by society's public health concerns over the primary and secondary effect of smoking?

By the way, do we still have or need a well regulated civilian militia as suggested in the Constitution? Are we still fighting the British?
..Maurice.

7 Comments:

At Wednesday, April 18, 2007 12:01:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Dr. Bernstein, guns are not the only means available to an individual bent on harming someone ... and far less efficient on a large scale that other means, including some which are far easier to acquire/manufacture/jury rig.

Are we going to begin measuring the nitrogen which farmers use on their crops down to the last ounce? Are we going to prevent the sale of apples which still have their seeds? Are we going to prevent people from spraying their lawns, gardens and homes to prevent the infestation of insects and other pests?

There will always be unbalanced people who perpetrate ghastly, unimaginable crimes against their fellow man ... removing a means of doing so simply makes them resort to another. If you take that route, it becomes an endless circle where all people are treated as if they were pathological criminals, ready to commit mass murder ... and even then, it still will not prevent someone with even a modicum of determination from committing such a crime.

This isn't politics, Dr. Bernstein ... and it's too bad that it's been adopted as a political issue. It falls prey to tiresome polemics where no one hears what's really being said anymore.

When we have people go over the edge like that young boy did at VT, we've failed as a people ... not because he was able to get his hands on a weapon, because if he wanted to harm people, he didn't need a gun to do it with ... rather, we've failed because we let the fellow fall through the cracks to begin with.

I'm sorry, Dr. Bernstein, that I don't agree with your position. I've never believed in the psychology behind removing the sharp objects rather than being vigilant, and ensuring that people know how to be responsible when using sharp objects ...

... And if there were individuals who simply didn't seem to "catch on," (and there always are) then dealing with them as individuals. Sometimes a solution can be found for their problem ... and sometimes not ...

... but the real issue isn't the sharp object, it's the fact that our kids shouldn't be that angry, and pass unnoticed.

 
At Thursday, April 19, 2007 3:38:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

I think that the following data from The University of Michigan Health System helps support a basis for the conclusion that guns are a public health issue. Go to the University link to access the numeric links to the resources noted within the text.
__________________________
What are the statistics about kids and firearm deaths and injuries?
The 2002 edition of Injury Facts from the National Safety Council reports the following statistics [1] :

In 1999, 3,385 kids ages 0-19 years were killed with a gun. This includes homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries.
This is equivalent to about 9 deaths per day, a figure commonly used by journalists.
The 3,385 firearms-related deaths for age group 0-19 years breaks down to:
214 unintentional
1,078 suicides
1,990 homicides
83 for which the intent could not be determined
20 due to legal intervention
Of the total firearms-related deaths:
73 were of children under five years old
416 were children 5-14 years old
2,896 were 15-19 years old
For more information: Child Trends DataBank has available these teen homicide, suicide and firearm death statistics.

In addition to firearm deaths, we need to look at how many children and young people are hurt by guns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 1997, 2,514 children aged 0-14 were non-fatally injured by guns. In the same year, 30,225 young people aged 15-24 sustained nonfatal firearm injuries. These statistics include suicide attempts and both intentional and accidental shootings [2].

According to the CDC, the rate of firearm deaths among children under age 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. American children are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die in a firearm accident than children in these other countries [3].

What do we know about kids and gun accidents and suicides?
When researchers studied the 30,000 accidental gun deaths of Americans of all ages that occurred between 1979-1997, they found that preschoolers aged 0-4 were 17 times more likely to die from a gun accident in the 4 states with the most guns versus the 4 states with the least guns. Likewise, school kids aged 5-14 were over 13 times more at risk of accidental firearm death in the states with high gun ownership rates. The findings indicate that gun availability is associated with accidental death by shooting [4].

Most guns involved in self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries (that is, in suicides and accidents) came either from the victim's home or the home of a friend or relative [5].

_________________________
..Maurice.

 
At Friday, April 20, 2007 5:29:00 AM, Blogger Ed said...

If only Virginia had strict gun control like New York or Washington DC they could expect to be a gun-free garden spot like those happy cities. Feh!

 
At Saturday, April 28, 2007 8:48:00 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

I'm curious- do you see a substantive difference between guns and cars? I lost a relative in a car accident, but I would not expect to be taken seriously if I started a crusade to ban cars so no one else ever has to experience my family's loss. Yet, people do this all the time with guns. The death toll from automobile accidents in this country is pretty terrible. Do you think your views might have anything to do with your personal preferences for driving? It's not a dig- it's just that sometimes people who have never owned a gun and never would find guns frightening and can't imagine why anyone needs them. At the same time, they have an easy time seeing how having cars confers benefits because they drive all the time, and therefore see cars as being "worth" the toll they take on human life. Is it a substantive difference or a difference in perception?

 
At Saturday, April 28, 2007 9:29:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Lisa, I guess the distinction between guns and cars in terms of worthiness would be the value of the object to all of society balanced against the risks involved in its presence. If you really want to compare guns and cars, then I would say that both certainly have their share of significant risks and both are dependent on the behavior of the user. However, society has more use daily in operating motor vehicles than the use of guns. I suspect there are far more people with guns who would miss their car and not miss their gun, if one or the other had to be taken away. ..Maurice.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2007 7:23:00 AM, Anonymous John said...

Nice observation, thanks.

 
At Saturday, June 16, 2007 9:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I write a "bab" word on a piece of paper with a pen, is it the pens fault? should we abolish all writing instruments for fear of "bad" words. Guns are a deturent. If evryone carried a concealed weapon as a last ditch self defense and all the bad guys knew this, violent "atacker" crimes would soon deminish to extinction. I find it sad that some of those hwo would ban guns havent taken a firearm saftey course, or would even consider owning a firearm much less handling one. However I do beleve if someone is affraid of a gun they certainly should not handle it with out proper training, and respect for what it is capible of. If used (properly or improperly) a gun is nothing more than a machine. But it is also a weapon. just as a parked car is not dangerous the same is true for firearms. It is when used carelessly or with ill intent that it becomes a problem. I still believe if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. So, lets keep it leagal so the good guys can still have them. Adam,

 

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