Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA Politics Gun Control
Previous Post
Next Post

By Thomas E. Gift, MD

In a recent research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association (“Knowledge of State Gun Laws Among US Adults in Gun-Owning Households”) Ali Rowhani-Rahbar MD et al. present data regarding knowledge of state firearms laws. Specifically, they assess the knowledge possessed by adults living in “gun-owning households” as to their state laws.

They approach this from the perspective that many such laws are designed to prevent injuries, and that following them would be useful for this reason. Using a self-selecting sample of subjects collected via the Internet, they find that a significant number of individuals living in a gun-owning household are not aware of laws in place, for example, to limit child access.

While there is no doubt considerable truth to the assertion that safety would be enhanced if individuals more carefully limited children’s access to firearms, there’s more to the story.

It’s often said that the law is a blunt instrument, and this certainly is the case regarding children’s access to firearms. Laws of this sort vary by state and locality, and one household can be very different than another. Some, for example are never visited by children, and in other instances the “child” in the family may be 17 years old, someone who’s working to support the family and is an accomplished hunter. Does protecting this “child” by limiting access to firearms make sense?

The authors deserve credit for avoiding the politics so frequently evident these days in medical publications addressing Second Amendment issues. Concerning firearm harm prevention in general, they note “… for most gun laws, the evidence is either inconclusive or lacking.” Not mentioned, of course, are possessors of illegal guns, who seem unlikely to follow laws regarding firearms safety.

Not mentioned either is the complexity of some of these statutes. In Pennsylvania, for example, individuals are cautioned that they may actually need the services of an attorney to fill out the form to purchase a firearm legally. And that reflects just one section of this state’s firearm laws.

The authors note that the sample of subjects they used is representative in many ways, such as age, but it is impossible to know if it is representative with regard to characteristics most important to the research questions. So, for example, individuals who are skeptical as to the conduct and possible benefits of research regarding firearms may choose not to participate. In fact, by the authors’ report, over 33% of the individuals approached to participate declined to do so.

It seems possible also that the complexity of laws regarding firearms may have kept individuals from answering “yes” to their understanding a certain kind of law as being in place because they were aware that they didn’t know the entirety of that law or other related ones.

Beyond the scope of the research are the motives of individuals advocating for laws to prevent harm from firearms. The situation is a bit like the Puritans’ opposition to bear baiting. Their concern was not the suffering caused to the bears, but rather they were upset by the pleasure enjoyed by the spectators.

One may wonder to what degree laws passed to protect people from firearm-related injuries are in fact advanced with the thought that the right to keep and bear arms is odious and should be restricted.

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.

This article originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission. 

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. You can’t teach people common sense and making a law does not by any means mean people will obey it. Just look at all the Democrat politicians who make rules and then are caught violating them on a regular basis. Do as I say, not as I do!!!

    Common sense would dictate that if you have children and firearms in a house that the firearms should be secured. I have no children living in my home but all of my firearms are locked up in some form of gun safe, cabinet or lock box. When the grandchildren come over everything is secure.

    We don’t need more laws that are either unenforceable or people simply are not going to follow. There is an old adage, If you play the game, you have to pay the consequences!!
    Its called being responsible for your own actions. Just like Alec Baldwin who recently claimed shooting two people was not his fault and he was the last person handling the gun.
    Go figure!!!!

  2. Meanwhile you hear nothing from hypocrites who would still be having a cow if someone wearing a mega hat driving an SUV plowed down and murdered innocent parade goers.

    Staying in a hospital is extremely risky and accounts for lots of death and injury. Gun Control jama has no podium.

  3. The AMA is a liberal lobbying group that pushes gun control. I don’t trust them or their “data.” Certainly, as regards guns, what they publish is always tainted with confirmation bias and has nothing to do with objective “science.”

    F them and FJB

  4. My problem with EVERYTHING the government does is – it’s always a “one size fits all” solution. Do I think guns should be properly secured, for the situation? Yes, of course. Does one solution (all guns must be in a STATE-APPROVED safe, with magazines and ammunition stored separately – the current KKKalifornia requirement) fit all situations? Hell, no. MOST people aren’t stupid (liberals unfortunately skew the results); they can figure out their own needs, and address them appropriately.

    If they can’t? Hey, Darwin will always win, eventually. If you are too stupid to properly, appropriately secure your weapons, YOU are responsible to the result. The problem with ALL government mandates is that the beneficent, omniscient goverrnment sets the rule . . . but you bear the consequences. If your state permits guns to be kept in open racks, and you do that, and someone gets shot as a result? Good luck suing the government.

    I like to decide for myself how I store my guns, what insurance I choose to carry, etc. If you don’t like that, I have a large pile of sand here . . . feel free to pound it in your @$$.

    • And they ALWAYS go “scorched earth” on everything no exceptions, no common sense just do it…

  5. “In Pennsylvania, for example, individuals are cautioned that they may actually need the services of an attorney to fill out the form to purchase a firearm legally.“

    Why get your panties all in a wad over that, what’s the big deal?

    You are advised to utilize an attorney to purchase real estate and execute a title.

    You are advised to seek the services of an attorney if you suffer any sort of personal injury or property loss from another citizen.

    I think it is patriotic to encourage citizens to exercise their constitutional right to seek the advice of counsel before answering any questions by the authorities.

    I find it strange that you seem offended by the idea.

    • “Are you an attorney?”

      Nope, not an attorney, never been admitted to the bar, do not possess a JD, not a paralegal or legal secretary.

      Just a West Virginia hillbilly living at the head of the holler enjoying this beautiful weather.

  6. Don’t nobody need to know nothing about no stinking gun laws.

    You will learn very quickly all you need to know, when arrested for violating one.

    Why bother with trying to know and/or keep up with shifting sand?

    If “common sense” laws were “common sense”, they wouldn’t need to be written down, would they?

  7. It does not matter what type of law you are talking about, there are thousands of felony laws, state and federal, thousands of penal misdemeanor laws and thousands of misdemeanors. Add in civil laws, regulations, standards of care, and norms. No one knows all the laws on any topic, armies of lawyers do nothing but argue over taxes, so I believe I don’t know all the gun laws and you don’t, either. Nothing personal

  8. “Hell a large number of cops don’t know the gun laws.”

    Not required as a condition of office (per SCOTUS). Perfect knowledge (some times referred to as “to the best of…) of laws only applies to defendants.

  9. As touched on in the article, there are HUGE differences between an experienced firearm enthusiast and some punk who possesses a stolen or second hand gun. But our press just lumps them together as “gun owners”.

    In most (certainly not all) incidents of a child finding a handgun under a couch, carseat, whatever, and killing theirself or a sibling… it involves the latter group. But the press packages it as those darn right wing 2A nuts being irresponsible again.

    • “some punk who possesses a stolen or second hand gun… “

      Not always…

      “She was sitting in the driver seat and he was in the back seat, behind her. He shot straight through. The bullet entered her lower back and exited through her abdominal area. It went through her and we recovered the round inside the vehicle. It was a .45 caliber (handgun),” Capt. Joseph Wells said.

      Authorities said the firearm was legally owned by Gilt, who maintained a Facebook page entitled “Jamie Gilt for Gun Sense,” where she regularly posted pro-gun positions. On her personal Facebook page, Gilt once bragged about her son: “Even my 4 year old gets jacked up to target shoot with the .22.”

      • “some punk who possesses a stolen or second hand gun… “

        Not always…”

        No shit.

        TomT LITERALLY just said “In most (certainly not all) incidents…”

        Get with the program. For someone who frequently calls out others for lack of reading comprehension, you’re certainly no genius…

        Anecdotes are just that. Of course there are cases where that happens, but the vast majority of non-incidents clearly demonstrates just how wrong you are on this subject.

        • “but the vast majority of non-incidents clearly demonstrates just how wrong you are on this subject“

          “vast majority”?

          Once again, asserting facts not in evidence to prove some narrative…

  10. There are two behavior traits that I seldom see from Americans now days, consideration and responsibility.
    I will not go into detail on what it means to you and those around you, practice those two virtues on a daily basis and you will be a happier person.

    • “There are two behavior traits that I seldom see from Americans now days, consideration and responsibility.“

      You may be correct, here are a couple Trump-loving fugitives who are clearly attempting to shirk their “personal responsibility” in the deaths of four children and the wounding of seven more.

      “James and Jennifer Crumbley had been charged Friday with four counts of involuntary manslaughter over Tuesday’s shooting, and were supposed to attend an arraignment Friday afternoon, authorities said.
      But they missed the Friday arraignment, making them fugitives and setting off a search for them, authorities said.
      Early Saturday, police said they found the couple on the first floor of an industrial or commercial building in Detroit — some 40 miles south of the Oxford area where they live — after someone tipped police Friday night that their vehicle was nearby.
      “They appeared to be hiding in the building,” Detroit Police Chief James White said during a news conference early Saturday. They were “very distressed” after they were detained, the chief said.
      White said he didn’t know the Crumbleys’ intentions, but that “this isn’t indicative of turning themselves in, hiding in a warehouse.”

  11. and in other instances the “child” in the family may be 17 years old

    Since the days when Obama was squatting in the Whitehouse, “child” has extended to age 25. Child certainly would also include our resident prog troll. Whatever age she/he may be.

    • “Since the days when Obama was squatting in the Whitehouse“

      Isn’t it strange that reality can be so much different than what most folks think…

      The evidence shows that while Barack Obama was in the White House, he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to the United States government, affectively covering the rent…

      On the other hand, during his time in the White House Donald Trump paid practically no taxes whatsoever, so now we know who the real squatter was.

      “Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama paid $1,792,414 in federal income taxes in 2009, according to White House archives.

      Trump attacked Obama, a Democrat, in 2012 over his tax returns and tax policies — criticizing his 20.5% tax rate. During the same year, the new Times report found Trump paid $0 in federal income taxes.“

      Glad I could clear that up for you.

Comments are closed.