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Reasoning With My Peers

by William B. Rogers, MD

Dr. Rogers, Psychiatrist, Member, and Boards of Directors, reports on his recent experience presenting a persuasive paper to a meeting of medical professionals in Dallas, TX.

May 5, 2002

I have considerable experience dealing with dysfunctional families and family violence. As such, I wasn't too surprised when my offer was accepted to do a paper for the First Annual Medical Care and Domestic Violence Conference in Dallas, TX last November. Because of the attack on the United States and the chaos in commercial aviation, the conference was delayed until this Spring, and I was glad for the delay (if certainly not for the cause). Why did I need a delay? Because I was quickly finding that I had launched the mother of all projects, that's why.

I had decided to write a 15-20 page paper on the "pro" and "con" attitudes about RKBA in the field of American medicine. I wanted the paper to be witty, accurate, easy to read and chock full of good references for the interested reader. I wanted references not only from the field of medical literature, but also from the fields of sociology and criminology. The latter being especially important because most physicians never get to see the data supporting the rational use of firearms from those other scientific disciplines, and the papers being written and published in the mainstream medical literature never reference those other fields. But the problem gets worse.

Almost every major anti-gun paper published in the mainstream medical journals uses basic data from two papers published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1986 and 1993 by Kellerman and his associates. Their methods of collecting data and analyzing it to illustrate their bias against the private ownership of firearms has been thoroughly discredited in the sociological and criminological literature. Several very prominent scientists and authors outside of medicine are big enough men to report publicly that they changed their views from anti-RKBA to pro-RKBA after reading the debunking of the early medical literature and then reading the scientifically based literature being offered by the likes of Kleck and Lott (and others).

While all this was going on in the 1990's, conclusions drawn from the early medical literature (known outside of medicine to be faulty and flawed) were being used to build a case for representing firearms injuries as a "public health crisis." With those three little words, millions of dollars would get sent to the Centers for Disease Control to begin studying the "depth of the problem" in the hope of finding a preventative solution.

When doctors use the "medical model" to describe a social phenomenon, they get onto very shaky ground. For instance, when we consider the plague and how it was ultimately brought under control, we find the key was to recognize the "vector," that is, the animal that carried the infectious agent. It was a nice piece of epidemiological work. The microorganism that causes the infection is carried in fleas. But...the fleas are brought close to people by rats. The solution was actually easy: get rid of the rats and you get rid of the plague.

Apply the same logic to firearms injuries and the idea becomes: get rid of the guns and you get rid of the firearms injuries. Well actually even that line of thinking is politically bastardized. The analogy would hold up well if doctors realized that the "guns" are the equivalent of the "fleas." They are too numerous and ubiquitous, and attempts underway even now in England and Australia (and Washington DC and New York City) demonstrate that you simply can't get rid of all the guns. You can get rid of the legal guns, because law-abiding citizens will attempt to follow the law. But criminals couldn't care less if there is a law making the carrying of handguns illegal. In fact, as we all know (first by intuition and now by empirically valid data), when there are less legal firearms in a community, violent crime escalates markedly.

Getting rid of the fleas doesn't work, but getting rid of the rats might work. The "rats" in the firearms injuries phenomenon being "people" who don't use firearms properly, either due to lack of training or criminal intent.

But why did physicians get duped into settling for a twisted analogy? Well, to begin with, ALL physicians did not get so duped. In fact, MOST physicians that I know personally are firearms owners and competent shooters. And most of the them could care less about politics or politicians. In further fact, MOST physicians do not even belong to the loud, well funded, gun-grabbing, politically powerful groups such as the American Medical Association which are adored by the media. It is an astounding fact that only about 1/3 of all practicing physicians in the United States belong to the AMA.

Knowing all this, and wanting to explain this very clearly to about 200 of my colleagues who were scheduled to attend the MCDV meeting in Dallas, gave me considerable pause to fret: I was planning to deliver a pro-gun message to a room full of feminist, politically liberal statists who would probably eat me alive. I asked several colleagues to start a pool to bet on how many minutes it would take for the audience to start booing and then maybe even stop my presentation.

This had to be done very carefully.

Finally I evolved a "mission statement" that brought focus to the task. My goal was to leave my colleagues with two new ideas: 

1. You don't know anything about firearms and society until you have read and agreed with or successfully debated the good science in the fields of sociology and criminology.

2. The people who are telling you what to tell your patients about guns (the "organized medicine" groups) also either don't know anything about firearms, or they have another agenda which is causing them to ignore a very important set of data from sister disciplines. Either way, those of us interested in "good science" must be skeptical about their advice (or admonitions).

I didn't want to turn my listeners into pro-RKBA after one controversial paper, but I did want to turn them into questioning, curious skeptics with respect to the "party line."

I also hoped that my paper would be accepted into a book being planned to include other papers from the conference. (Unless it is just too damn politically incorrect, it just might make it--ok, a guy can dream, can't he?)

The 20 page paper was accompanied by a 20 minute oral presentation and, if I may say so myself, a dynamite PowerPoint slide show.

Oh...and what happened during my oral presentation? It was attended by about 30 doctors, nurses and psychotherapists (it being one of 4 concurrent "break out" sessions). I was received very politely and with great interest. There was a smattering of applause when I opined that our worthy study of firearms injuries prevention HAD to be disconnected from the politics of "gun control." During the brief Q&A afterwards, a very knowledgeable lady stood to ask if I would elaborate on what I had meant by "the problem with gun control in England." I was only too happy to do so, while holding back my astonishment that she (and I'm sure others in the room) had never heard about the increasing violence in England, Australia and Washington DC in relationship to firearms prohibition and confiscation.

A few days ago Angel Shamaya asked me if I wanted to maintain "proprietary control" over the paper and the slides. My answer is not only NO, but H - - L NO!

Both the paper and the slides have been edited and placed on the website for Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws ( -- you can access it from the DSGL home page, and a direct link is found below this note. I invite you to read them both and download them to show your friends and your personal physicians. If you are called upon to make presentations or write articles about RKBA, feel free to use the posted material and any of the references that you find helpful.

God bless each one of you,

W. Rogers, MD
Tyler, TX

Without further ado, please visit...

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