Blue Sky and Dark Clouds: On “Gun Violence” Researchers


In a current Journal of the American Medical Association article with an accompanying editorial, various researchers express their happiness with  the resumption of federal funding for the Center for Disease control to look at violence, including “gun violence” (because “guns kill people”?!).

They feel good about the lessening “chill” of the Dickey Amendment’s prohibition against research “to advocate for or promote gun control.” Many readers will recall that in 1996 the Dickey Amendment was passed in order to stand in the way of Americans’ tax dollars being used to attack their civil rights, and specifically the right to keep and bear arms. One JAMA commentator, Mark Rosenberg, was CDC Director in the 1990’s, who wanted guns to be seen as “dirty, deadly—and [to be] banned.”

Looking for a moment at the blue sky, at least one of the commentators quoted, who has also published research on reducing violence, notes the desirability of seeking approaches to changing interpersonal behavior in a way that will result in less interpersonal violence.

People who harbor different views, including the idea that the right to keep and bear arms is a protected civil right, can all be supportive of behavioral change that results in a more civil and less belligerent society. DRGO has referenced studies suggesting that there are psychological or psychosocial interventions that do indeed cut down on interpersonal violence—such research showing positive findings is likely to spur more of the same sort.

Glancing again at the blue sky, several sources quoted in the JAMA article refer to newly proposed funding to support harm reduction, violence prevention, reducing suicides and minimizing unintentional injuries from firearms, goals that DRGO and gun owners can also support. Described favorably are efforts to have firearms dealers, gun ranges and others temporarily (and voluntarily) hold the weapons of individuals who are suicidal, although not mentioned are laws in many places that do not allow family and friends to play this role.

Turning from the blue sky to the threatening dark clouds, the name “Wintemute” appears. This physician has  a long history of churning out writings that attack and attempt to belittle the Second Amendment. At one point in the JAMA piece he notes his support for garnering information on risk factors for becoming involved in violence, which seems commendable, but then the mask is dropped and he’s on to restrictions on the purchase of guns. Referenced in a favorable way in the JAMA article is the Gun Violence Archive. [This organization is not a friend of the right to keep and bear arms, and structures its data keeping to support restrictions on firearm ownership.

Also referenced as a resource is Giffords. This organization comprises activist, legal and PAC entities, inspired by former federal Representative Gabby Giffords near-assassination. It was formerly known as the Legal Community Against Violence and as the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The actual focus of the group is not reflected in either its past or current formal names. They’re seeking the benefit of camouflage, one presumes, as they push to restrict Second Amendment rights. It is known to many Second Amendment supporters as the “Giffords Gang.” 

The front page of the August 31 Wall Street Journal includes an article describing a plan hatched by the Department of Health and Human Services to “treat climate change as a public health issue”.  This may well indicate the Administration’s intent to label its political goals as public health matters, including gun restrictions. There is also a possibility that this tactic could elicit more support for Second Amendment rights by manifesting how it intends to manipulate policy justifications in this way.

In the JAMA piece, one commentator deplores the tendency of voters to make decisions based on values rather than science. A moment’s thought reveals the shortcomings of such a pure science-focused view. We favor parents’ caring for their children, freedoms based on the Bill of Rights, and all manner of things we deem worthwhile and dear—not because of science, but rather based on values. Let’s hope voters will see how this science-trumps-everything tactic is either a rhetorical trick or a profoundly perverted perspective—the perspective of those who would create Frankensteinian monsters.



Tom E Gift, MD

—Thomas E. Gift, MD is a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Rochester, New York, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical School, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

All DRGO articles by Thomas E. Gift, MD