By Dennis Petrocelli, MD
Dr. Patrick Neustatter recently penned an op-ed for the Fredricksburg Star supporting typical “common sense” gun control legislation. I feel for my colleague because I too once believed the medical mythology that guns are bad and need to be “eradicated.”
Over the past year — I celebrate my first guniversary next week — I’ve opened my Hippocratic eyes to actual facts and figures and have reached the conclusion that “guns save lives.” Here’s are my rebuttals to the usual points people like Dr. Neustatter make:
“Gun violence” isn’t a public health problem. It isn’t even an actual thing. Like “gun sense” and “assault weapon” it’s a made-up phrase designed to do one thing: facilitate civilian disarmament.
“Gun violence” consists of two parts suicide and one part criminal homicide, the latter largely the result of inner-city gang and drug-related warfare. According Giffords, is perpetrated by 1% of the population. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t even make the CDC’s top ten list of public health problems and Virginia is the fourth safest state in the Union.
Here are some additional facts to disarm the disarmamentarians.
Shootings cause 100 deaths per day.
Humans cause death, and nothing makes this clearer than research that “shows” that confiscation reduces gun-related suicide, but the suicide rates climbs nonetheless. Why? Because people kill themselves and others, not guns. When people are literally left to their own devices, they find another way.
This is why red flag laws are a terrible idea.
“Gun deaths” per 100,000 in Australia, Canada and the U.K. are 0.9 , 2.0 and 0.23, respectively, compared with 12.21 per 100,000 in the U.S.
Cherry-picked numbers do not advance the discussion. The U.S. ranks 30th worldwide for gun-related homicide, and the rate of “gun violence” per gun, since that’s what others want to focus on, is about 37,000 gun-deaths divided by roughly 420,000,000 guns, a rate of less than 0.01%.
This means that Americans are astonishingly “well-regulated,” or “in good working order,” with their guns.
The U.S. government will never be so authoritarian that guns will be needed to fight off its agents.
I’m sure Venezuelans thought the same thing when they disarmed in 2012. I bet they changed their minds when armored personnel carriers ran over their own people in 2019, and their doctors were hauled off by thugs for protesting the lack of basic medical supplies in their hospitals.
Guns are about deterrence, and an armed population provides a necessary and important reminder to the government that its officials govern with the consent of the governed. Human nature hasn’t changed much since the Bill of Rights was written, and history has proved, over and over, what happens to unarmed civilians.
The Washington Post reported the percentage of people who have used a gun in self-defense “is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliens.” Also, a survey by the Harvard School of Public Health said, “The National Crime Victimization Surveys provide little evidence that self-defense gun use is uniquely beneficial in reducing the likelihood of injury or property loss” . . .
I wouldn’t trust my life to the Washington Post or the Harvard School of Public Health. I’m not a fan of the CDC either, but when it reports, begrudgingly, that guns are used defensively 1,000,000 times per year, I’ll believe it.
I don’t have the benefit of Michael Bloomberg’s armed security detail, and I don’t work for the Virginia Legislature on the other side of metal detectors and armed Capitol Police officers, so I’m concerned about actual criminal humans, not aliens.
. . . and the firearms industry supports this fear.
The gun industry provides “We the People” with one means of self-defense. Those of us who carry guns do so not based upon fear, but concern.
I don’t tremble when I holster my gun, but I’m fully conscious of the need to handle the gun safely and I’m aware of the types of situations that I might face and how the gun I’m carrying may or may not play a role, based upon many hours of ongoing training and practice.
Confronted with the carnage caused by guns, which have no purpose beyond killing, unlike other things we regulate, we must take precautions.
I agree with precautions, just very different ones. If you’ve read this far and follow the numbers, these suggestions make perfect “gun sense”:
- Ban gun free zones. Any that are left must have armed perimeter defenses and compensate victims for injuries suffered within.
- No early release for violent felons.
- Free concealed carry training for victims of any violent crimes.
- Expansion of concealed carry by laws into places of worship.
- Relegate “gun safety” (control) legislation to the dustbin of history.
Dennis Petrocelli, MD is a clinical and forensic psychiatrist who has practiced for nearly 20 years in Virginia. He took up shooting in 2019 for mind-body training and self-defense, and is in the fight for Virginians’ gun rights.
This article was originally published at drgo.us and is reprinted here with permission.
Four words that should never be used together! Common sense has nothing to do with their agenda. Appeals to the same people who think Don Lemon is a great orator!
” Common sense ” recognizes ” shall not be infringed ” . End of argument.
If the liberal democraps had any common sense they’d be Conservative Republicans!
I took a rough swipe at how many homicides every year, a few years back. I’m sure the numbers are different today, but still in the ballpark.
30,000 gun deaths a year. 2/3 are suicide, leaving 10,000 homicides every year. 2/3 of those were gang-on-gang, leaving 3000 actual “civilian” murders every year. With a population of 300 million, that’s one gun murder per 100,000 people.
Other interesting stats that I remember only vaguely: Japan has more suicides in absolute numbers than the US, with half or 1/3 the population and very strict gun control.
Britain does not count a death as murder until they have a conviction. If they only solve half the murders, their reported murder rate if half its true value. I do not know what their clearance rate is. I do not know how other countries do this. I do know that if the Bobbies find a body with a dozen bullet wounds, and never arrest or convict anybody, it is not a murder.
Almost every country in the EU has a violent crime rate 3-4 times the US, with Britain one of the worst. I do not know what differences there are in defining or reporting violent crimes.
As an example of how unreliable statistics are, the US is consistently faulted for having a high infant mortality rate. What these detractors ignore is that the US tries to save more and earlier premature babies than most other countries, and these count disproportionately towards infant mortality. A lot of countries don’t count a live birth until the baby has survived a week; any infant death before that is a “stillborn” and does not factor into infant mortality rates. Once you correct for these factors, the US has a much lower infant mortality rate. (And don’t bring up abortions; those are no more a health problem than gun deaths.)
One thing I would add: gun deaths aren’t all murders. Among the remaining, tiny portion of fatal shootings that aren’t suicides or gang related, about a thousand are justified homicides by police, and another thousand or so are justified homicides by private citizens
Thanks, those are both good points that I had forgotten.
The author of the OP pointed out a little tidbit that I have been harping on for years. That is, the rate of gun-related deaths *per gun*. Why does this matter? Because the antis regularly claim that it is the *quantity* of guns in the U.S. that drives the gun crime. Well, as it turns out, given the huge number of guns in the U.S. (and I’ve crunched the numbers with the much more conservative figure of roughly 300,000,000 guns in private hands) a gun in the U.S. is a bit LESS likely to be a tool of murder than a gun in Japan.
Stated otherwise: There are over 100 million gun owners with over 400 million guns in the U.S., If we were a problem, you’d know it.
“And don’t bring up abortions; those are no more a health problem than gun deaths”
Well, until they are. 638,169 abortions were reported In the US in 2015, the last year for which we have statistics, versus, from the mouth of the CDC itself, 14,542 “Firearm homicides” for 2015.
Let’s bring up abortions, for the children.
You are a fool and playing right into the gun controllers thoughts.
Bringing up abortion as a public health problem legitimizes their attempts to call guns a public health problem. Neither is.
Whose side are you on?
“Whose side are you on?”
Guess again. You guessed wrong the first time.
I was not calling either a health problem. My only point was “Let’s bring up abortions,” no need to leave them out in the cold.
And you have not refuted my point, that abortion is no more a public health problem than “gun violence”. Instead, by claiming that one is a public health problem, you have buttressed the gun controllers’ attitude that “gun violence” is a public health problem.
I ask again: whose side are you on?
Abortion is not a health problem. It is an ethical and moral problem.
Be careful comparing to rates in other countries. Japan’s suicide rates are slightly inflated and murder rates deflated. A man that kills his family and the suicides shows as 4 suicides instead of 3 murders and a suicide. They also cavalierly classify unsolved deaths as suicides to maintain high closure rates.
Welcome, Dr. Petrocelli. Great article. I’ve linked one of my favorites.
I woke up in 2013 when Maryland wanted to ban guns with bayonet lugs. Thought that I’d missed all the bayonet murder sprees. Turns out there werent any, but they passed the Firearms Suppression Act of 2013 anyway. Not surprisingly, Baltimorgue, Murderland now leads the nation in per capita homicides. Homicides in Bloodymore, as some folks call it, are up 60% since the enactment of “common sense gun control” measures here. Note that FSA2013 was a knee jerk reaction to Sandy Hook. You know, the one where the murderer started the day by killing his own mother while she lay in bed, before going off to kill a bunch of first and second graders? Tell me, what law will stop such a determined maniac? Pretty much none. The Constitution aside, gun control does not reduce crime.
Bayonet lugs? Maybe it was an attempt to disable the use of flash suppressors. The gun grabbers are terrified of those “silencers” they see on TV.
Once again the politicians know not of what they speak. Politicians with whom I have engaged here in CA are quite surprised when I explain to them that the “Flash Suppressor” does nothing to hide the position of a shooter. All the powder flash is fully visible to anyone close around or distant from the shooter. The idea is that the particular muzzle devise is to deflect the “flash” to the sides rather than allowing it to shoot up into the line of site of the person firing the rifle. Only situation in which that might might be beneficial to the shooter is if he were firing a fully automatic rifle. A “full auto” or machine gun is illegal in California. Oh, and the politicians? They think I am lying to them.
I remember when I was serving we did night qualifications with NVG’s and the related equipment, and our M-16’s. The muzzle flash from a standard military round is minimal at most, even in the dark of night. With the NVG’s in place, it was little more than a spark, and a small one at that. The big “flash” that movies and TV shows portray are for movies and TV, and not even close to real life. In truth the flash suppressor moves what little flash there is, and the tiny bit of smoke from the smokeless powder, out of the sight picture of the shooter.
Specifically, background checks have never prevented a crime or criminal access to a firearm and were never intended to: Their intent was and is to convert our RIGHT to keep and bear arms into a revocable government-issued permission, and to violate our right to be secure from search without probable cause, violate our right to due process by criminal jury trial before any right can be taken, violate our right to be secure from having to give up a right in order to exercise a right, and violate our right to be secure from the federal exercise of powers not delegated and State powers prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. The federal government doesn’t even have the lawful power to license firearm dealers. The Brady Act of 1993 and the NICS checks are flagrantly, egregiously violative of our Constitution and its embedded Bill of Rights, and must be repealed, rescinded, or otherwise abolished with extreme prejudice while we still have a country where rights are a gift of God and beyond the reach of government — or at least a chance of restoring it.
Okay im on your side but this bugs me:
“background checks have never prevented a crime…”
How could you possibly know about crimes that didn’t happen?
I have no arguments with what the good doctor states. Guns can be used for defensive purposes as well as other purposes. The anti-gun mafia has a phobia about anyone who can defend themselves!
Does anyone believe criminals care about laws? Of course not. Then why believe a law will prevent crime. Punishment doesn’t prevent crime either. Even the death penalty only stops the executed.
So what is to be done? I submit people must allowed to protect themselves and trained to do so. Stand your ground laws get to be too complicated. If someone is trying to commit a crime against your person or property and you shoot them, regardless of the injury or death of the offender, it should be a case of they got what they asked for and deserve. End of a criminal career. No expense to taxpayers. No large police force es that resemble armies. Might make the creation of larger cemeteries necessary sooner.
Simple solution… cremation, ashes spread on available croplands, mandated for ALL those killed in the commission of a crime. Not only saves space but saves money. Why honor the dishonorable??
Dr. Petrocelli, welcome to the right side of the argument. I am glad to have you on our side. I grew up in a family of medical professionals who also competed with firearms and some of whom were military and not a few of whom took up arms against an oppressive government. So maybe I was biased. Doing trauma surgery in the bowels of South East Washington, DC, and seeing and treating the carnage around me, I was early in my career convinced of the importance of self defense and the right to keep and bear arms. I had noticed that every civilian firearm related wound I personally treated had been caused by a prohibited person.
Probably 85 to 95% of gun deads are caused by prohibited people, if you excule hunting accidents. The only thing that some people understand is the ability to hit back. Unfortunately, some of our leaders are of that mind. Witch is why we need the 2 Amendment.
There is no such thing as a hunting accident with a gun, only negligence. An out of stater shot at my friend in a wheelchair, while were on public land. Luckily, the guy was old and 500 yards away. My friend immediately drew his shoulder holstered pistol and emptied the magazine into the dirt. My Brother was covered in orange, as he is 4foot tall and moving, and movement is all it takes sometimes for a moron to pull their trigger. The worst part is he was pushing in a clear cut field, not concealed by brush.
We went and got in the truck and immediately headed over to confront the negligent morons, who just tried to kill my Brother. It was an old man in his 70s, his son a little older than us, and a ten year old boy, all from the great state of Georgia. The son was told to put his kid in the truck so I wouldn’t emasculate the man in front of his kid. The option was to call the cops at least a couple hours away and have charges of reckless endangerment and reckless discharge of a weapon enforced or learn their lesson taught in pain. I let the son hit me for liability and saving face reasons for his son, then I broke his nose. I Picked him up off the deck and then the rest of the morning I watched my Brother laughing and drinking brandy coffee with the old timer, who was one of his Marine brothers. The young kid got out and I told him his dad and grandfather were stand up guys. They made a serious mistake and they owned up to it.
After, the country justice court session, it was funny to listen to my Brother give the old Marine guff, for not hitting his target.
If one considers the number of felonious actions prevented or stopped by legal firearms it could mean the potential of say 40,000 lives were saved. Discount self-inflicted suicides from gun deaths and ratios change considerably.
Probably more. From the famous Kleck and Gertz study, a low estimate of 1,000,000 defensive gun uses annually. As i recall from a Nick Leghorn analysis, 15% said they were certain they would have been murdered sans gun.
That’s potentially 150,000 lives saved at the low end of the dgu estimated range. How many have to be wrong before lives saved drops below gun murders?
Grain of salt, i might be misremembering which study Nick was analyzing.
To the people running things on the gun grabbing left facts are IRRELEVANT.
The ONLY thing relevant to them is POWER and specifically how much power
they can achieve, maintain and expand. To these people NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.
And for their brain dead oxygen wasting sycophant supporters facts don’t exist
because they lack the IQ to grasp fundamental reality. The people who violently
oppose our freedoms and seek to enslave us are TOTALLY IMMUNE to facts, logic,
reason and rational thought.
I came to say something similar.
When I read the title of this article (Gun Control Advocacy Doesn’t Stand Up to the Facts), I immediately thought, “What a quaint idea,” because civilian disarmament supporters do not care about facts.
Many of them don’t care of facts, but there are a handful of individuals locally to each of us who can be influenced. These are the small group of voters that may help stem the blue wave of confiscation (both arms and all your income to pay for others’ handouts).
I’ve seen people change their mind over time. Don’t discount them. Have the conversation and let them stumble into the logically fallacies. Then, when they are starting to show some confusion on the topic, ask about Prohibition. Arguments fore and against are the same as gun control.
“Humans cause death, and nothing makes this clearer than research that “shows” that confiscation reduces gun-related suicide, but the suicide rates climbs nonetheless. ”
Or, perhaps, bring in a three digit number to run rather than expecting a suicidal person to remember a 1-800 number. Supposing that the 911 number was scrapped, and you had to ring the 1-800 number for the local police, ambulance or fire station. Stupid, huh?
““Gun deaths” per 100,000 in Australia, Canada and the U.K. are 0.9 , 2.0 and 0.23, respectively, compared with 12.21 per 100,000 in the U.S.”
You’re supposed to compare the USA against comparable countries – and the USA is not flattered by the comparison.
Comparing the USA against Mexico, Honduras etc reveals the poverty of the advocate’s ambitions.
” I’m not a fan of the CDC either, but when it reports, begrudgingly, that guns are used defensively 1,000,000 times per year, I’ll believe it.”
Don’t. A phone poll was taken, and crudely scaled up to the population of the USA. The original was 300,000 – 3,000,000 defensive gun uses a year. Leaving aside the question as to whether these values are indicative of Mr Nugent’s ‘polite society’, there’s a tenfold range of values. So, the original values were changed to the 1,000,000 value – just the geometrical average of the previous values.
One might also wonder about where the police reports are. If someone threatened me sufficiently that I would consider lethal force then I would report it to the police. So, where are the 1,000,000 reports a year? Someone once told me that they didn’t report it to the police as they couldn’t trust ‘liberal courts’. Meaning, they knew that threatening people like that was illegal, and relied upon ‘my word against their word’.
“I’m sure Venezuelans thought the same thing when they disarmed in 2012.”
Venezuela’s history is complicated, and goes back to the Conquistadors, with a wealthy upper class dominating the majority of people living in abject poverty. Be careful, please, to understand what is happening before you comment.
“What makes the UK and Australia “comparable countries?”
Both post-industrial. Both wealthy & developed. Both anglophone.
Mexico, by contrast, has a major problem with drug trafficking through the country.
Wealthy and post industrial don’t really apply to most of the country once you are not on the coast. Also we don’t have a drug trafficking problem?
First of all, United States Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Reports do indicate over one million violent crimes reported to law enforcement in the United States. So, yes, people do report violent crimes. How many of those people used a firearm to defend themselves? We do not know since the report does not say.
Second of all, a LOT of people who used firearms defensively used them in “sketchy” circumstances. The victim may have a criminal conviction and cannot “legally” possess a firearm. Or the victim may have been using drugs or alcohol and would not be “legally” allowed to defend themselves while potentially impaired. Still other victims may have been carrying a firearm without a license or registration which would be “illegal” at the time that they used it to defend themselves (in jurisdictions that require registration and/or licensing). Such victims would definitely NOT report their victimization to police since that would incriminate themselves.
Third, there are people who do not want the hassle of dealing with police, especially if they did not have to shoot their self-defense firearm. Maybe they were walking to a parking garage when a thug jumps out to rob them. The victim pulls out a handgun and the thug immediately runs away before the victim shoots. There are no other witnesses and no cameras around. It is late and the victim has to work in the morning. And the victim cannot provide any useful information to police (did not see the attacker’s face very well and no license plate number on a vehicle) which means the police are never going to identify much less capture and prosecute the attacker. So the victim simply gets in his/her car and drives home without ever reporting what happened.
Finally, as you suggested, there are people who do not trust the police or the courts. Even though such victims used their firearm for self-defense in a righteous, just, and legal manner, the police and/or the prosecutor could still be honestly mistaken, biased, and/or malicious and screw over the victims.
And there are probably more reasons which have not occurred to me.
There is an alternative way to estimate how many times people use firearms to defend themselves. We can estimate based on the number of reported justifiable homicides where the defender was not a law enforcement officer.
Let’s start with some simple facts and a few incredibly reasonable assumptions:
(1) Justifiable homicides (non law enforcement) number about 500 per year.
(2) Let’s assume that victims used a firearm in about 300 of those.
(3) Let’s assume that victims only pulled the trigger in about 1/10th of attacks.
(4) Let’s assume that victims only hit their attacker in about 1/5th of attacks.
(5) Let’s assume that 1/5th of people with gunshot wounds die.
Those are very reasonable assumptions based on data which is available if you care to find it.
So, how can we use that data and assumptions to estimate how many times people use firearms to legally defend themselves? The answer is fairly simple:
annual attacks x 1/10 x 1/5 x 1/5 = 300 annual justifiable homicides
annual attacks = 300 x 10 x 5 x 5
annual attacks = 75,000
And now we have a reasonable estimate of how many times people use firearms to legally defend themselves annually.
Please note that this number represents the absolute low end. Remember in my comment above where I mentioned how several people who use a firearm for righteous self-defense would not report it? If any of those people used a firearm to defend themselves and the attacker died, they would not report themselves to police. And police would NOT categorize the dead attacker as a justifiable homicide. That means an additional number of homicides which were justifiable are not in law enforcement databases. Therefore that above numerical estimate is low. How low? I don’t know. If just 300 of the annual 9,000 homicides (approximate annual homicides where the “victim” died from gunshot wounds) which police report are NOT justifiable homicides actually ARE justifiable homicides, then our annual number of times that people righteously used a firearm to defend themselves doubles to 150,000 times.
Do not dismiss that last paragraph. It is well within reason to think that 300 out of 9,000 — that is just 3.3% — annual homicides really are justifiable homicides in addition to what police already tally. That means people use firearms in righteous self-defense on the order 150,000 times every year in the United States.
This method is a fairly reliable baseline since there is no uncertainty about a dead body. Researchers can obviously be uncertain about 100,000 to 1 million “he said, she said” reports which may or may not be righteous self-defense. So, while I understand that people are reluctant to agree with various survey methods of determining righteous self-defense with firearms, there is no basis in reality to reject the above estimate based on concretely verified dead bodies and easily verifiable assumptions of firearm fatality rates, shot accuracy rates, and shooting (versus “brandishing”) rates.
“Please note that this number represents the absolute low end.”
More evidence, please.
“That means people use firearms in righteous self-defense on the order 150,000 times every year in the United States.”
That’s way short of the 300,000 to 3,000,000 such acts, which is where we started.
Evidence of what?
Evidence that people use firearms to righteously defend themselves and will not report their righteous self-defense actions due to possible/likely legal sanctions or reprisals from dead attackers’ family/friends? That is a given. And if you spent a fair amount of time in/near urban Hell-holes, you would know that — and that it happens OFTEN.
Or do you want evidence that a substantial number of homicides were righteous and yet police miscategorized them as murder? (That is necessary for my upward estimate of how often people use firearms in righteous self-defense.) Of course no one knows the exact number. And estimating it is difficult since it would require knowing the specific circumstances of all homicides which never happens. My choice of a very small percentage (just 3.3%) of homicides (where the deceased died of gunshot wounds) is certainly a plausible number.
Remember, a felon cannot legally possess a firearm. And yet we know for a fact that a LOT of felons carry firearms anyway. (News stories abound of police arresting felons under various circumstances for illegal firearm possession.) Consider such an armed felon in Chicago who righteously defends himself from attack and the attacker dies. Is that armed felon going to hang around and give Chicago police an accurate and detailed rundown of what happened? Of course not. When police show up, are they going to see a dead body with bullet holes and categorize it as justifiable homicide without any witnesses or evidence? Of course not. Rather, Chicago police will record that as a murder which they will never solve (no fault on their part — they cannot solve a murder when no one comes forward with any information).
Once again, if you spent a fair amount of time in/near urban Hell holes, you would know that this happens, and that it happens a lot more often than just about anyone would want to know. For example Chicago’s murder clearance rate was a paltry 21% in 2016. That means Chicago police have no idea how many of the remaining 79% of murders were justifiable homicide or murder. My suggestion that just 3% of homicides (unsolved homicides if you want to be technical) were actually justifiable homicides is totally reasonable. In fact the actual number is probably far higher.
Venezuela’s history is indeed complicated, and goes way back before the Conquistadors. It doesn’t start with rich white opressors and abject poverty of its indigenous people.
When comparing crime rates of different countries, we should look at who lives in each of them. UK, Canada and Australia have lower murder rates? Interesting. Let’s see what makes them different from the USA. We know for fact the black and Hispanic gangs commit about half of murders in this country and most of the unsolved ones in the other half. How many of those operate in UK, Canada and Australia? Compare demographic numbers, not firearm numbers. You may learn something.
“It doesn’t start with rich white opressors and “abject poverty of its indigenous people.”
It never does. Hugo Chavez achieved what he did by taking money from the wealthy minority and spending it on the poor in the favelas.
So, the wealthy started whining to the US media about had bad Mr Chavez was.
Mr Chavez should have succeeded, and would have but he did too much and reduced investment in the oil industry, thereby killing the golden goose.
Good column. Good points.
And, I have to kvetch about the photo. The team are not only not wearing eye protection, but they have their gowns and gloves on in the wrong order. The gowns go on first, gloves second. (Not your fault, Dan. It’s the fault of whoever staged the photo.)
Congratulations, Doc. You’ve discovered something that many of us, and our parents, grandparents, and earlier ancestors have known for centuries. Better late than never I suppose. 🙂
re the anti-abortion type: you want the offspring,then you FULLY pay their costs.Not me.Right to lifers are parasites.
Welcome to the fraternity/sorority of Law Abiding Gun Owners and Patriots Dr. Petrocelli. We’re darn glad to have another voice of reason midst our ranks. As a former Health Care Professional (Retired), you wrote a great article.