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Treating guns as public health issue remains wrong-headed

A coalition of medical and gun control lobbying organizations has renewed a familiar call to treat the misuse of firearms in our society as a public health issue (“Diagnosis: Gun deaths and injuries are a public health issue,” by Dan Gross and Georges Benjamin, The Hill’s Congress Blog, April 1).

Trying to make criminal or negligent misconduct involving guns (adding suicides to the mix) into a public health issue goes back to the late 1980s. Then as now, putting the emphasis on guns, and not their criminal misuse, remains a wrong-headed approach, even if it’s one with appeal to those with little personal experience with firearms.

{mosads}So, while we’re now in the metaphorical waiting room with the old magazines until we hear that the doctors are ready to see us, you can rest assured that we eventually will hear the same formulary of gun control prescriptions previously written by their gun control organization partners but that have gone unfilled on Capitol Hill.

Doctors should concentrate on genuine public health concerns — and there are many of those, ranging from the return of once nearly conquered childhood illnesses such as measles to inadequate infection control protocols leading to unnecessary deaths in hospitals, as well as such perennial issues as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The public agrees. A national scientific survey we commissioned in the fall of 2014 revealed that an overwhelming 84 percent of survey respondents said gun violence is a criminal justice issue, rather than a public health issue, while 71 percent of respondents said that the federal government should not classify “gun violence” as a public health issue in the manner of viruses and diseases.

Those in the invented public health field of “firearms epidemiology” and gun control groups refer to the “epidemic of gun violence.” But that is an analogy, not a diagnosis, and a false one at that. The facts are that homicides with firearms in this country are down 39 percent since 1993, according to the Department of Justice, while unintentional fatalities are 58 percent lower over the same period, as the National Safety Council reports. This has occurred even as firearms sales have reached record levels.

Medical credentials do not confer special insight into gun policy formulation or inoculate against an anti-gun political bias. The country won’t follow a public health diagnosis, nor will Congress. We’ve seen all this before.

From Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Newtown, Conn. 

Arrogant presidents do damage

Rand Paul’s garish 2016 campaign has roared in with high-tech theatrics and glitzy feel-goods (“Paul’s 2016 bid banks on DC ire,” April 7). Glaring contradictions fester beneath the Kentucky senator’s carefully calculated bombast. His “freedom” mantra is totally dictated by right-wing Republican extremists, not genuine libertarian conviction. Fake-libertarian Paul panders with his opposition to “gay rights.” Paul is no “outsider” — his failed GOP policies pour more wealth to the rich, while protecting tax-free corporations.

Paul simultaneously pretends “compassion” while coldly cutting the “safety nets” that safeguard the vulnerable in our society. Paul’s “less government” kills real people and makes millions miserable. 

Dare anyone ask: What are candidate Paul’s actual public-service accomplishments and qualifications for the most difficult job in the world? George W. Bush showed us what lasting damage an arrogant unqualified president can inflict on our fragile nation and the world.

From Michael Gregoire, Louisville, Ky.

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