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.