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Letter to a Doctor in the Inner City

By: Dr. Bill Rogers

A physician from Philadelphia contacted me through the DSGL mail ( and asked me some questions mostly about why doctors would support the proliferation of innately dangerous firearms on the streets of the inner city.  

He didn’t write with the usual sarcasm of an anti-gunner, and he doesn’t know me well enough to make an ad hominem attack. What sort of spooked me was that I could sense something in what he wrote and how he phrased his thoughts:  this guy was legit, and he was suffering from having seen too much inner-city violence, and not just on TV, but “up close and personal.”

I decided to write him back. Then I decided to share my letter with my fellow members of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws (, and then, I decided to send it all to Angel Shamaya for his posting on the main website.

Why?  Because I want you to understand something that came to me as I wrote to my brother physician. There are people in the inner cities that are suffering badly, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that we can do about it…except perhaps to give our best advice and step back.

So that is just what I did for the doctor.  And in the course of it, I was reminded quite clearly that there is no reason in the world why their solving their problem should involve an attempt to disarm me. 

Well, they won’t, and that’s that.

Dear Doctor,

There are many, many reasons why I personally think that an armed populace is a safer populace.  I do readily admit that inner city folks get shot up a lot. That is a terrible price to pay, but right now it seems like we have to pay it.  But I and my colleagues have noted that it is the communities with the most handgun control in which one is most likely to get shot.

Consider one simple point.  Resolved:  in every community that has adopted it, the presence of a “shall issue” concealed handgun permit program reduces the incidence of violent face-to-face crime.

If you do not agree with that statement -- as proven factually in More Guns, Less Crime by Professor John Lott -- then nothing that I or anyone else can say will make any sense to you.

If you do agree with that statement, then we must ask together, why are we not moving toward helping people arm themselves to stabilize their communities?

Here are my answers to a couple of the questions you posed:

You ask:  “Are there women and minorities enrolled in your organization?  I see no mention of any non-white, non-male name.”

My answer:  I honestly don’t know.  I do know there are female physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners who have contacted us. We have heard from medical professionals of various races, religions and creeds.  We have 15 professionals serving as a corps advisory group.  The rest of the people that have expressed interest in our views (some 300+ professionals and laypeople) have signed up for a newsletter (and I hope you will do as well), but we are not really a “dues paying, rules following, about-ready-to-write-some-bylaws” kind of group.

You ask:  How does your organization propose to limit criminal access to firearms?  

My answer:  We’re not so much interested in limiting criminal access to firearms as limiting access of criminals with firearms to us and our families.  I personally don’t know how to do more than is currently being done to limit criminal access to firearms—the caveat being that whatever we do as a society MUST NOT hamper a free, innocent, liberty-loving American from his or her access to firearms.  Why is that important?  Read on.

To date, the best thing I have seen is what we are doing in my home state of Texas.  Our statistics for violent, confrontive crime are plummeting as the numbers of Texans with concealed handgun licenses increase.  We now have about 300,000 citizens that have paid several hundred dollars for courses and licensing, and then many of us have gone on to spend a thousand or so more dollars for a good firearm and lessons to use it and stay proficient with it.  Most of our instructors are off duty or retired law enforcement officers.  They spend countless hours teaching us because they know keeping our selves, our homes and our communities safe is up to us, the citizens.  The law enforcement people will do all that they can to help us. We know that. But they and we also know that what they can do when the chips are down is quite limited. 

I honestly think that the only way to limit the activities of criminals is to make what they do very, very costly to them.  So costly, that they either stop doing it (not likely, I’ll admit) or that they go somewhere else to do it.  Sociological data demonstrate that is exactly what they do, by the way.  When a community announces that it is arming itself (by adopting a “shall issue” CHL program) and when there are a few incidents of citizens shooting bad guys, then the incidence of violence begins to drop markedly.  Conversely, when one considers the likeliest place in America to get shot between 1 AM and 4 AM, it would be the city where it is illegal to even OWN a handgun, much less to carry one:  Washington DC.

So what should you do in Philadelphia?  Sir, I am a Southerner, and a Texan.  I will gladly leave the conduct of the citizens of Philadelphia to the Philadelphians.  I am quite sure you people will figure out what to do about the crime in your streets.  You’d better!  You really do have young people being killed and maimed for no other reason than that their elders cannot decide what to do about it and how to stop it! 

[See real life incidents in Philadelphia where violent people attacking and threatening good people had to be stopped with firearms. No charges filed, good guys sleep in their own bed that night: November 17, 2000, August 3, 2000, June 17, 2000.]

It occurs to me that it will take a lot of courage for our city neighbors to do what has to be done (be it in Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, or even, yes, Houston and San Antonio).

But, you were kind enough to ask my opinion, so I will give it. What you will have to do, I think, is to arm your law-abiding citizens.  Reliable firearms are expensive.  You may have to use some public money to purchase them for the law-abiding citizens who are willing to carry them.  Training is also expensive.  A firearm is worse than useless without training; it is dangerous -- so, again, public money may have to be invested.

The alternative is for you to make it even more difficult for law-abiding citizens to get firearms.  In fact: make it completely illegal to own a firearm, if you must. Go ahead.  Turn your city into another Washington DC.

I don’t mean to mock.  I too have worked in inner city emergency rooms. I too have seen the innocent blood. 

Doctor, my interest in our right to keep and bear arms is based on an absolute refusal to ever, ever take part in a system that makes it hard or impossible for a fellow citizen to defend himself or herself.

Still, despite the agony of so many people, I don’t think there has been enough suffering to effect a change.  There are simply too many unarmed people who are ignorant of shooting skills and who are more afraid of guns than they are of bad guys carrying guns.  And they just don’t understand that the former is the solution to the latter.

I’m afraid there is going to be a lot more blood spilled before the lesson is learned.

Doctor, I would very much like to hear your further thoughts on these matters.

Very cordially yours, and with gratitude for your concern,

W.Rogers, MD


Director, Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws, Dr. Rogers' archive of writings can be found at


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A woman who demands further gun control legislation is like a chicken who roots for Colonel Sanders. —Larry Elder

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