Dr. Richard Corlin, the new president of the American Medical Association,
started his term with a bang Tuesday night. His inaugural address was devoted
entirely to the issue of gun violence. Unfortunately, he simply repeated many of
the myths and misconceptions that have burdened the gun control movement.
The only area in which he seemed to offer a new initiative was in calling for
more research on the causes of gun violence. Although honest study is sorely
needed, Dr. Corlin ignores the sordid history of gun research by the medical
During the early 1990's the anti-gun lobby developed the strategy of fighting
gun violence as if it were an epidemic. Guns were likened to viruses that must
be eliminated. Proponents of this theory were so dedicated and dogmatic that
they turned their backs on ethical research practices and even the scientific
They knew in their hearts that guns were an unmitigated evil force in society
and their studies were designed to prove this in a way that society could not
ignore. Even if the resulting data failed to support the pre-planned conclusion,
it was tortured into submission anyway and distilled into a memorable sound
Most people remember the one that says you are 43
times more likely to be killed by a gun in your home than to kill an
intruder. Not only is that factoid false, due to deliberately induced sampling
error, but even if true it is useless. The basic thesis ignores the fact that
guns are frequently used to ward off criminal attack without a shot being fired.
Sometimes criminal intruders are shot at, but not hit. Sometimes they are hit,
but not killed. This study has become the classic example of results-oriented
research, or more simply, junk science.
Read any study that claims to examine guns as a public health menace and you
will find a similar skewed logic, since researchers who subscribe to that theory
have already made up their minds that guns are evil and do not wish to be
bothered by inconvenient facts.
The leading instigator of these results-oriented, anti-gun studies is Dr.
Arthur Kellerman. History will probably rank him, and now Dr. Corlin, in the
same category as Trofim Lysenko, an infamous Soviet geneticist who brought
politics into agricultural genetics, producing decades of crop failures and
suffering for his people.
Some of this junk science was financed with taxpayer dollars through the
Centers for Disease Control. When gun rights supporters objected Congress
rightly cut off funding. The gun haters have been crying about it ever since and
Dr. Corlin, who misses the point entirely, complained about it again in his
The fact that Dr. Corlin is announcing his strong bias in advance destroys
any hope for the honest and ethical study of this issue. He even offers us the
emotional basis for his deeply held feelings. He states that a woman who worked
in his office was killed in what seems to be a gang-related drive-by shooting in
He does not say why he prefers to investigate gun violence rather than gang
violence, but there is a standard explanation for this kind of tunnel vision. It
is simply much easier to blame the weapon instead of the complex human behavior
and societal influences that are the real causes of violence.
Most people who choose this philosophical path have little or no experience
with the responsible civilian ownership of guns. Not surprisingly, Dr. Corlin
says that he grew up in Newark where, he recalls, there were no guns. Thus it
must be terribly difficult for him to understand why people might want to own
This mirrors, in reverse, the experience of many middle aged and older gun
owners. They often relate how they grew up in areas where everyone had guns and
even brought them to school, yet shootings of any kind were unheard of.
Americans should prepare for another junk science plague. It appears that the
resources of the AMA are going to be devoted to a new campaign of Lysenkoism in
the service of the anti-gun lobby.
Perhaps more AMA members will leave the increasingly politicized
organization, but Dr. Corlin explains that the show must go on. He is dealing
from a position of strength, since the AMA is no longer dependent on dues from
its declining membership. Most of their funding comes from cozy outside deals
such as producing expensive diagnosis code books which physicians are forced to
buy if they wish to bill for their services under the current
Lysenko would be proud. He twisted science to promote a political agenda, and
Dr. Corlin is preparing to follow in his footsteps.
Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and board member of Doctors
for Sensible Gun Laws. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
His archives on the web can be found at http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com/Brown.