Michael Dowling
Courtesy Northwell Health
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A recent op-ed at Scientific American, written by a large healthcare system CEO and a doctor, jumped onto the anti-gun bandwagon just a few days after the recent white supremacist terror attack in a Buffalo, New York supermarket. Unsurprisingly, the authors argue that gun violence is a public health problem and that health professionals should be part of solving it.

The article shares the story of a hospital-based gun violence prevention program that they say actually worked. When someone would come in with gunshot wounds, they’d work to connect the patient with mentors, legal help, employment resources, and mental health services. Unsurprisingly, when these patients got into a stable life with legal and gainful employment, far fewer of them ended up getting shot again.

In other words, a targeted program (focusing on people who get shot, possibly by armed citizens defending themselves and their families from criminals) that addressed root causes of violence (poverty, mental illness, etc) panned out. Even our most conservative readers can probably agree on that, because it passes the common sense test.

Sadly, the op-ed goes on to advocate for very different approaches than what the authors just finished saying was successful.

“Over 90 percent of adults who live in homes with guns say they have never discussed firearm safety with a clinician; in an effort to lower that figure, Northwell is conducting a first-of-its-kind National Institutes of Health–funded study. We are currently piloting a universal screening protocol where we ask our patients questions about their exposure to firearms to better understand their risk of being on one end of gun violence or the other.

For the pilot, providers in our health system talk to patients who comes (sic) into three of our hospitals about how to avoid gun injuries—the same way we talk to them about sugar intake, exercise, or motor vehicle safety. Previously, there was no standardized procedure for when and how clinicians should have these conversations. We now talk to patients who have access to firearms about safe storage, provide them with gun locks and connect those at risk of gun violence with appropriate intervention services—like peer mentors, mental health support, job training programs, and more.”

That seems reasonable on the surface, but at this point they’re expanding beyond what’s been proven to work and trying to press doctors into serving as firearms instructors, which is something they know next to nothing about in most cases.

Worse, instead of advocating for what works the way an NRA certified instructor would, they’re pushing the false idea that normal people (who aren’t out participating in criminal activity) would benefit from simply locking up their guns and making them useless for defense instead of pushing them in the direction of getting good training from reputable instructors.

Put more succinctly, they’re replacing good advice with their political agenda of European-style gun ownership, where guns are no more than range toys — when politicians feel like allowing even that — and not tools for self defense.

The political advocacy masquerading as “public health” doesn’t stop there . . .

“Finally, while making changes within our hospitals and our industry is important, the best way to help reduce gun violence in the long run is to push policy makers to act. When alerted to the health detriments of tobacco, and the need for better motor vehicle safety laws, our government has responded. While our lawmakers legislate climate change and reproductive justice, both of which affect the people who walk through our doors, they must also be frank and realistic about the toll of gun violence and their power to mitigate it.

Health care institutions can only do so much to protect the people we serve. But we account for 17 percent of GDP and 22 million jobs. This is why the 600 or so health systems in the U.S. and the executives that run them must combine our voices and industry resources to advocate for common sense gun reforms at every level of government.”

At least they’re honest about what they really want in the long run — civilian disarmament — but they’re probably not going to talk to patients about advocating for taking their guns away. Instead, they’ll take the patients’ money and use that to advocate against gun rights themselves.

What They Should Be Doing…And Why They’re Not Doing It

In reality, there are two problems with this approach.

First, few people trust their doctor in a conversation about firearms. Going to medical school and completing the grueling work beyond that to get a medical license shows character and dedication. Doctors tend to be good people, by and large, and they provide an important service we all need. They are not, however, firearms instructors, so they’re not a trusted source for that kind of information or advice.

Then pile preaching a political agenda on top (civilian disarmament, disdain for the use of force in self defense) and the mistrust only multiplies. Is the doctor asking because they genuinely want to help, or are they collecting data to use against us and our rights? Why should I even have this conversation?

“I used to own guns, but I lost them all in a boating accident.”

Beyond the trust issue is the naked cash grab. It’s no coincidence that one of the authors of this op-ed is the CEO of one of the nation’s largest health care providers.

Continuing to get federal and state governments to give integrated healthcare operations like Northwell Health millions of tax dollars needs to be repackaged as “philanthropy” so taxpayers and the public won’t see it as a corporate handout to an activist CEO who will turn around and advocate for Democrat Party policy goals using his patients’ money.

If health system CEOs want to really address “gun violence,” the solution is to go back to the approach that originally worked and direct people to appropriate apolitical community resources. For criminals showing up in emergency rooms with holes in them, mental health treatment, mentoring, and employment assistance make sense. For normal people going in for a physical or a respiratory infection, referring untrained gun owners to qualified firearms instructors would make heaps of sense.

But don’t hold your breath. There’s no money for the hospital system in that approach and no room to push a political agenda, so that’s not likely to happen.

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37 COMMENTS

  1. I remember years ago taking my son to his pediatrician. During the examination Dr. Jones asked me if I had firearms in our home. Without thinking I said, “Yes.” He then began to lecture me on firearms. I had to interrupt. I said, “Doctor Jones, even if there were no other reasons (there are) the government pays, and requires, me to have firearms. I probably have as much time in training with them as you do your medical degree. Let’s come to an understanding. If you don’t tell me what to do with my firearms, I won’t tell you how to treat your patients.” He went back to his job without a word.

    • I got that question four years ago. Once you go back to the exam room, a nurse usually comes in first to take your vitals, and ask you questions. She popped that question, and maybe she noticed the surprised look on my face. She just said, “you don’t have to answer that.” So I didn’t answer. It’s none of their business.

      This is another reason why Congress would be inclined to give money for these programs. When you’re getting federal money, the fed controls you. If you decline to play by their rules, then they threaten to take the money away. That’s another reason we need to return spending to the states.

      • Dude! That was a very good comment. The Sheriff that hired me would never take any federal grants. I once asked him why he wouldn’t. He answered, “Because I ain’t their fucking puppet.” Roger that, Sheriff.

  2. As if nazi Gun Control being a vehicle to fill concentration camps with unarmed Jews and misfits wasn’t bad enough the most grotesque human experiments were performed on the live inmates by sick and I do mean sick Doctors that left a stain on the profession forever…unless of course you are a sheltered history illiterate who stands for nothing and falls for anything like Gun Control.

    And now we have knee jerk well funded media daring quack doctors who talk in circles only to wind up using the acts of violent criminal to disarm America. This doctor-doctor crap is nothing more than sneaky backdoor Gun Control. Bottom line doctor…History confirms Gun Control in any shape, matter or form is an agenda rooted in racism and genocide.

  3. This is a good article, and I appreciate you bringing this to our attention. I’d like to point out that poverty is NOT a root cause of violence. This is such a familiar narrative that people just accept it as fact. The logic is that a large portion of violence is committed by those in poverty, therefore poverty is a root cause. Okay, let’s apply that logic to murder. Is being black a root cause for murder? Should we address people being black? Hmm…

    Let’s get into the real problem facing our country which is Congress robbing us blind. The reason this CEO is pushing for that sweet, sweet tax payer dough is because he knows Congress constantly hands it out. As the Obamas were fond of saying, it’s time to fundamentally transform America. No, I don’t mean ruining women’s sports, facilitating a human hierarchy based on skin color, or transing the kindergartners. No, what I’m proposing is that the federal government ends 100% of spending that isn’t related to the function of the federal government. State and local governments should be responsible for these programs, if they choose. Here’s why the elite hate that idea: that means they have to actually have the funds instead of printing us into never ending debt. Congress hates it because they don’t get to make deals that help them PERSONALLY. Guess what Congress, it ain’t supposed to be about you!

    It was all hands on deck to get the Dems back into power ever since they lost in 2016. They created a crazy conspiracy theory about Russia Collusion and used the federal government as a weapon against a sitting president. They censored any story that made the Puppet look bad. Our “Intel community” signed a letter saying a legitimate news story about Hunter’s laptop was Russian disinformation! Then, they had the gall to create a disinformation governance board led by someone who pushed these lies! DC votes over 90% for Democrats. Is that a coincidence?

    Why would they go to all that trouble? I’m sorry to our resident ideologues, but it has nothing to do with left wing ideology. They did all of that so they could control the money printing machine. Have we forgotten that they flat out lied about inflation? I don’t mean some silly activist, I mean the Federal Reserve! They’re in on it. They were trying to give the Dems a chance to pass insane spending bills. They still managed to pass some, and yes, the Republicans were in on that one as well! Every single hard working American should be pissed about this, but it isn’t even being reported. People actually believe that everything that is bad is Trump’s, I mean Putin’s fault. In other news, propaganda still works.

    • Sometimes you and I agree and sometimes we don’t. That said, you are absolutely spot on with your assessment regarding controlling the money.

      • Don’t look now, but they just tried to spend 50 billion on bailing out the restaurant and gym industries. You know, the same industries the state and local government tyrants forced out of business? The mom and pops are mostly gone now. Maybe if the restaurant and gym industries could get a beef going with Russia, they’d have better success?

        Oh, and I thought we were kindred spirits.

    • Where’s there are socialist, marxist democRats there is slanderous, libelous propaganda. And where there is slanderous, libelous propaganda there is election rigging. When it comes to knowing what makes America-America…the democRat Party is like a lowlife who steals a concert violin and hasn’t damned clue how to play it.

  4. Could a clinician improve my hit and stop the threat ratio in a defensive situation? Otherwise, I really dont have an interest in participating.

  5. I’m always ready for the question since the Obama admin. A physician has never asked me, but if they do, I’ll lie.

    They can kiss my ass.

    • Jimmy,

      I agree with your sentiment, but why bother to lie?? I’ve found that a simple, “That’s none of your business.” usually works. One doctor got huffy and told me it was “his duty” to discuss “the risk of owning guns” with me. I stared for a second, said, “I said it was none of your fucking business. I do not recognize you as having ANY expertise about guns or gun safety. This conversation is over.” He got all pissed, I finished my business, and never returned to that idiot again.

  6. “…how to avoid gun injuries—the same way we talk to them about sugar intake, exercise, or motor vehicle safety.”

    They should stay in their swim lane. Sugar intake, exercise, and other HEALTH related issues are discussion topics with a physician. Those are voluntary actions. Lead ingestion and twisted metal/glass impregnation is not. Let’s throw in the dangers of kitchen knives (knives in general) if they are so concerned. What are the stats on how many practitioners actually understand firearms competently enough to conduct a gun injury conversation? I remember the gunm grabbers had practitioners asking patients to fill out a form concerning mental state as part of the pandemic antics. I refused as I was only in for an annual physical. The concern over any information being twisted for Red Flag use at their discretion is all too real.

    Practical advise: if you are shot and still conscious seek medical attention.
    Class dismissed

  7. Slight change:

    ” … providers in our health system talk to patients who comes (sic) into three of our hospitals about how to avoid medical errors—the same way we talk to them about sugar intake, exercise, or motor vehicle safety.”

    Medical billing errors cost Americans $210,000,000,000 annually.

    Roughly 12,000,000 Americans are misdiagnosed each year.

    Medical errors cause an estimated 250,000 deaths in the United States annually.

    As many as 80 percent of medical bills contain at least one error.

    A little more than 4,000 surgical errors occur each year.

    It’s estimated that 7,000 to 9,000 patients die every year from medication errors.

  8. If I called my local doctor saying that an armed man is breaking in my house, I would be told to call the police or 911 and then they would hang up on me.

    My question is why this should be any other way.

  9. President Dribble says he will sign the World Health Organization treaty that would make our country subject the the WHO’s health policies. The WHO already considers firearms a health issue. They WILL identify firearms ownership as a threat to public health. THAT will accelerate the war on the 2A.

    If the Lunatic in Chief signs away our sovereignty, THAT will be a treasonous act.

    This DemoCommie regime must be stopped, arrested for treason, tried, and disgraced.

  10. All those fancy degrees & they are clueless it is “people violence”. No better than “doctor”Jill Biden. Yeah I get the same BS at my Medicare office. I ignore the question as well as ” are you depressed,despondent or hopeless”. They have no say in what I do,believe or plan…

  11. The Far Rights maniacal paranoia is both sad and laughable. The good news is that women are more likely to appreciate the warnings of the dangers of having a firearm in the house. Locking up guns in the home that has children in it is only common sense, something that is foreign to the extreme with the paranoid Far Right who find it impossible to think clearly and logically. Their sickness prevents this.

    Women must also be made to realize that the odds are heavily stacked against them when there is a firearm in the house as most people are shot by people they know and usually by someone living in the house, not by a break in or being accosted on the street. The Statistics prove it beyond all doubt but as usual the paranoid Far Right scream “Do not confuse me with the facts, it does not fit my warped political agenda”. To the Far Right there is nothing more terrifying than Science and the truth.

    • Another fact-free, babblingly incoherent rant from dacian the stupid . . . must be a day ending in “Y”.

      Go pound salt in your @$$ dacian the stupid. No one here gives a flying fornication at a rolling deep-fried pastry what you think about anything (and that assumes that you DO think, a dubious proposition, at best). Go finish that GED you never got.

  12. “Over 90 percent of adults who live in homes with guns say they have never discussed firearm safety with a clinician”

    I also don’t discuss health matters with my FFL so I think we’re good here.

  13. After the medical establishment said that it was okay to protest in public over George Floyd’s death during the year of the “Chinese flu”. But it was not okay to attend church services???
    The medical establishment with all their degrees and education has flushed their credibility down a toilet.

    When they give up their armed security guards, at the entrances to the emergency room. You let me know.

  14. NOWHERE does this tell us that the intention is to employ Medical Doctors as FIREARMS INSTRUCTORS. What it DOES tell us is that those admitted to hospital with gunshot injuries are mentored and advised by the to get professional advise from one assumes, suitably qualified persons. Of course there is no reason as to why a Medical Doctor should not be such a suitably qualified person. But surely a situation that results in 15 to 20 THOUSAND unnessessary deaths by GUN CRIME IS , by definition, a Public Health Problem. I mean PLAGUE is considered a POTENTIAL Public Health problem and only around 30 deaths, if that per year are experiencedd in the USA mainly as an infection picked up from certain wildlife rodents.
    I cannot see the connection between the consideration of FIREARM Crime as a Public Health Problem, which by the way is only the considered opinion by a Medical Group. and a polarised POLITICAL opinion. The move towards SAFER automobiles was instigated by Public Heath considerations was it not.

    • Albert the Subject,

      Wow. Stupid, illogical, factually wrong, and ignorant. Decided to swing for the fences, didn’t you, Albert the Subject. First, your “statistic” that “15 to 20 THOUSAND unnessessary deaths by GUN CRIME” is a flat-out lie – roughly 80% of that number are suicides. We lose an order of magnitude more people every year to medical malpractice – now THAT is a public health problem. Second, the article, while CITING a study based on providing counseling to GSW patients, was ADVOCATING for a general approach to discussing “gun safety” with anyone they thought had guns in their homes. I don’t recognize any particular knowledge, expertise, or wisdom on the part of my medical professionals in re: firearms and firearm safety. Third, it’s none of their damn business UNLESS that is the issue that I have come to them for – “Doctor, I stubbed my toe and I think I broke it.” Doctor: “Do you have guns in your house?” “None of your damn business; fix my toe.” And, no, “SAFER automobiles” came from MANY sources – concern about liability, government regulation (although that ends up causing problems nearly as often as solving them), and marketing considerations. Nice try, but learn something about the auto industry before trotting out your “theories”.

      Go find out what your queen wants you to think about this, then discuss it with your fellow subjects; we don’t give a crap what you think, and haven’t since 1776.

    • “Of course there is no reason as to why a Medical Doctor should not be such a suitably qualified person.”

      The more pressing question is why you don’t even attempt to use paragraph structure.

      If you’re going to rant, by all means, rant but try to structure it in a way that make it seem like you maybe passed primary school.

  15. Because the “public health” fascists had SUCH a record of excellence and accomplishment over the last 28m? (or hundred years)?

  16. “Health care institutions can only do so much to protect the people we serve.”

    Protect the people they serve? Really?

    I’d be just fine with these self-important types only diagnosing and curing real diseases as well as dealing with trauma and injuries as they occur. As is obvious from the WuFlu, being able to actually prevent certain maladies is beyond their capabilities.

    I see no way the medical field can go about civilizing feral behavior in large areas if metropolitan cities run by coddling mayors and councils but I would love to follow them around should they like to go down into the ‘Hood to talk to the dudes on the corner about safe handling, storage and all that BS… Make a great documentary.

    • “I see no way the medical field can go about civilizing feral behavior in large areas…”

      Sure they could. Patch up the GSW victim, give them a better gun and tell them “Go gett’em Tiger!”. Maybe even toss in a complimentary training coupon.

      Let that social experiment run to completion on a large scale and you’ll run out of “ferals” pretty quick.

  17. “But we account for 17 percent of GDP…”

    I wonder what happens to that stat if we drop back to, say, a 35% obesity rate? You know, a relatively small change, Rome built in some period of time and all that.

    What? You think they’re telling all the fatties about the fact that being clinically obese raises cancer risk significantly more than smoking (but one of a dozen serious issues with obesity that are a major driver of healthcare costs)?

    I promise you, they are not.

    Not that it much matters at this point. Things continue as they are and the fat-folk won’t live long.

    • At my annual I commented to my MD that I’m always surprised that his primary nurse is in quite good physical condition for a woman in her 50s and not obese like the majority of the health care workers, particularly those in the lab that drew the blood. He agreed.

      My Dr has asked the questions about lifestyle they ask all their Medicare patients but guns have never come up. Neither with my pastor. I guess one needs to be able to pick them. Do your research ahead of time.

  18. The last Doctor I had a discussion about guns with was 1 I met at the shooting range. He asked why I needed the Big 50 Sharps I had out that day. Until I started ringing the 1000 yard 5 inch plate with it. Then he asked to shoot it.
    Any form of gun control comes down to money, political power and control over the populace, or a segment of it. An armed populace is harder to dominate, control and rule over.

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