Guns Are NOT a Public Health Issue

[Ed: This was Dr. Edeen’s talk at 2023’s Gun Rights Policy Conference September 24. See the video beginning at 13:40 here. Dr. Young followed, discussing Sandra Richardson’s study reported in A Legal Barrier to MH Care in NYS, beginning at 22:05.]

What is public health?

The CDC defines it as …the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. This work is achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases. Overall, public health is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations. This is a worthy endeavor.

The public health push for banning guns goes back to the late 1980s at least.  In a 1989 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) official Patrick O’Carroll, MD stated “We’re going to systematically build a case that owning firearms causes deaths.  We’re doing the most we can do, given the political realities.”

“Guns are a virus that must be eradicated.”—Dr. Katherine Christoffel, pediatrician.
“Data on [assault weapons’] risks are not needed, because they have no redeeming social value.”—Jerome Kassirer, M.D., former editor, New England Journal of Medicine.

“I hate guns and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to own one.  If I had my way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns would be banned.”—Assistant Dean Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Harvard School of Public Health.

In response to these and others, Doctors William Waters, Timothy Wheeler and Miguel Faria plus criminologist Don Kates in 1996 testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. They testified about the misrepresentation of data, skewed study populations, inappropriate research models for the subject under study, and arrival to preordained conclusions —all evident in the immensely shoddy “gun control research” conducted by the CDC/NCIPC (Centers for Disease Control/ National Center for Injury Prevention & Control).

The panel was also informed about how the NCIPC researchers breach accepted scientific practice by refusing to release to other researchers, their publicly funded data for further critical analysis. CDC/NIPC members also used tax payer money to promote activities to limit the second amendment at academic meetings. Their testimony resulted in the Dickey Amendment which defunded biased anti-gun advocacy research.

DRGOs founder Dr. Timothy Wheeler stated “These medical researchers insist that what they call “gun violence” is a public health problem.  That they prefer the term “gun violence” is revealing of their mind set in approaching the problem, because it puts the emphasis on guns and not on the humans who misuse them.  This misleading public health terminology, enthusiastically repeated by fellow gun control advocates in the mainstream media, ignores the fact that almost none of America’s [then] 80-100 million gun owners have any role whatsoever in the misuse of guns.

Normative gun ownership is foreign to most mainstream media personalities and to public health anti-gun rights advocates.  They fear guns and gun owners, and they have no interest in learning about them or respecting their views.  These prejudices and fears drive their campaign to bring ever more regulation to American gun owners.

We saw the failure of the Public Health community during the recent COVID pandemic. Ten days to stop the spread. First, no masks, then masks. Vaccines that don’t stop transmission of the virus and can cause myocarditis and sudden deaths in young people. No trials of hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. Follow the money. Emergency Use Authorization is only permitted if there is no alternative standard treatment. Billions of dollars of Federal money were at stake.

Gun banners claim that the gun industry is the only one that can’t be sued. Of course, we all know that isn’t true. However, the vaccine industry cannot be sued.

Criminologists and economists have been studying violence and its consequences for decades and have a much better understanding than the public health community. They have published a large volume of literature that puts to rest the premises of the public health establishment.

 Public health looks at the guns as carriers of “disease”, rather than at the criminals who commit violent acts or the mental illnesses that lead to suicide. There are two state-funded gun violence research centers at UC Davis in Sacramento and at Rutgers University in New Jersey. There is the Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. These institutions are funded by anti-gun interests. Their solutions to “gun violence “ boil down to the wish list of the disarmament industry…red flag laws, “large capacity” magazines, ”assault weapons” bans,  universal background checks, “ghost gun” bans, restricting gun purchases to those over 21, purchase permits, FOID cards etc. These laws affect only law-abiding gun owners.

Recently, New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham put out an emergency Public Health order banning firearm carry except for law enforcement and security officers in Albuquerque and Bernallilo County because of a road-rage incident that killed an 11 year-old and a drive-by shooting that killed a 5-year-old child. New Mexico Attorney general Raul Torrez, refused to defend her order. In a letter to the governor, he stated that her order distorted the meaning of the Public Health Emergency Response Act (PHERA). Simply rebranding gun violence as a “public health emergency” will not satisfy the heightened judicial standards for justifying the blanket prohibition against any citizen, regardless of criminal conduct or intent, from carrying a firearm for personal protection. . .

“As the former Bernallilo County District Attorney, I agree with your assessment that ‘responsible gun owners are certainly not our problem (and) have never been our problem.’ Given that only responsible gun owners are likely to abide, much less recognize your ban, it is unclear how this action will lead to a measurable decline in gun violence in our community. Moreover, considering the extraordinary resistance that many citizens had to certain public health restrictions during the recent COVID pandemic, I believe it is unwise to stretch the definition of a ‘public health emergency’ to encompass something that is fundamentally a public safety issue.” The Attorney General has summarized the argument against the public health approach to gun violence better than I ever could.

In conclusion, I will quote Alan Gottleib, “ Nobody’s ever gotten COVID from a gun.”




—Dr. John Edeen is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in San Antonio, TX and is active in seeking the right to carry for qualified hospital staff. He is DRGO’s Membership Director.

All DRGO articles by John Edeen, MD