Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Gun-Hysteria of Our Medical Societies

Unless you've been living under a rock or have been on an extended vacation recently, you've likely heard about the recent statement by various medical societies regarding firearms in the United States.

There is so much ignorance and lack of scientific rigor here that I really don't even know where to begin.

Let's take the passage on "assault weapons" as an example.

"... Although evidence to document the effectiveness of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 on the reduction of overall firearm-related injuries and deaths is limited, our organizations believe that a common-sense approach compels restrictions for civilian use on the manufacture and sale of large-capacity magazines and firearms with features designed to increase their rapid and extended killing capacity. It seems that such restrictions could only reduce the risk for casualties associated with mass shootings."

In other words, they are claiming that although the data says that the 1994 ban had little or no effect on violence, they still think it's a good idea. Really. Nothing like a completely evidence-free stance by supposed scientists. I'm so glad that these people are in charge of the nation's health, and my professional accreditation.

Then, there is the inclusion of the infamous "40% statistic" in the passage on background checks.

"... Background checks clearly help to keep firearms out of the hands of persons at risk for using them to harm themselves or others. However, 40% of firearm transfers take place through means other than a licensed dealer; as a result, an estimated 6.6 million firearms are sold annually with no background checks (24)"

Problem is, the Washington Post gave the president Three Pinocchios when he quoted the same flawed and dated study. 

One would think that a collection of highly educated and scientifically oriented professionals could come up with better supporting data than that.

And let's talk about about the "Gag Law" passage.

"... When appropriate, physicians can intervene with patients who are at risk for injuring themselves or others due to firearm access. To do so, physicians must be allowed to speak freely to their patients in a nonjudgmental manner about firearms, provide patients with factual information about firearms relevant to their health and the health of those around them, fully answer their patients' questions, and advise them on the course of behaviors that promote health and safety without fear of liability or penalty..."

Now, I am no fan of the government muzzling me during my patient interactions, but this passage is a pile of hooey. The "speaking ... in a nonjudgemental manner" is the first lie. You know how that conversation is going to go, just from the tone of the prior quotes. The part about providing "factual information about firearms" is the next lie. The very people who penned this position statement don't know squat about firearms. What makes them think that their underlings or the average Joe or Josie in the trenches of healthcare has any more expertise than they do? It's laughable. I personally have had some good office conversations with people while I talked about the Eddie Eagle Rules, and I've even shown a kid or two phone video of me shooting a 3-Gun stage, but docs like me are in a micro-minority. It is fantasy to think that "factual information" will be given out by people who don't know a compensator from a magwell. It's actually worse than fantasy - it's a lie.

I have said time and again, that demonizing an inanimate object is much easier than changing human behavior, which is why these groups seem intent on making what should be a law enforcement and criminal justice issue, a "Public Health" issue instead. People use public health all the time as a guise for demonizing everything from transfats to Big Gulps, and their tool of choice is not behavior change - it's legislation.
It's even in the position statement referenced above,

"We are committed to working with all stakeholders to find effective solutions through reasonable regulation ... "

Yup - they don't want to educate or change behavior, they only want laws. Talk about letting your hysterics contaminate your science.

I have a particular problem with the use of the very specific phrase "gun violence". Why use that particular terminology over simply "violence"? Is there any evidence (besides a political agenda) which indicates that violence committed with a firearm has any different root causes than violence committed with fists or baseball bats or hammers? If there is, please show me the data. If there isn't, then please do actual studies on actual behavior and motivation toward violence independent of the tool used, and then get back to me.

I also want "public health" advocates, to please get their thumbs off the scale and stop showing me stats which include 18 and 19 year old gangbangers as "child deaths by gun violence". If an adolescent is old enough to pull a trigger during criminal activity, then he or she is NOT a child, and classifying them as such is intellectually dishonest. It is also worth noting that violent teen criminals are often tried as adults. 

Suicides are another way these advocates pad the data. As tragic as suicides are, these data should have an entirely different classification, because the causes and motivations would obviously be completely different than those for "violence". And if you don't have that data, then there is your new goal - study THAT.

As if all of that intellectual dishonesty, bad science, and data padding weren't enough,  the actual money shot is right here:

The National Institute of Justice 
has said,
 "Gun-related homicide is most prevalent among gangs and during the commission of felony crimes." 

"Most violent gun crime, especially homicide, occurs in cities and urban communities."

"A study of persons arrested for a wide range of crimes showed that a higher percentage of arrestees than regular citizens own firearms. Arrestees are also more likely to be injured or killed by gun violence. Within a community, this amounts to an identifiable group of “career” offenders."

"Surveys of offenders have found that they prefer newer, high-quality guns and may steal or borrow them; most, however, acquire guns “off the street” through the illicit gun market."

So there you go. For the majority of Americans, "gun violence" is a non-problem. If all of this is true, ( and the NIJ has the data to back it up, unlike the above mentioned medical societies), then tell me WHY the medical community wants to make this a "public health" issue, instead of leaving it where it belongs - under the purview of the criminal justice system?

When one considers this data already collected by the Justice Department - that the majority of "gun violence" is committed by a small subset of the population, in limited areas of the country, using firearms that are largely obtained illegally - then advocating by medical professionals for the banning and control of firearms for the general law-abiding population is not only unsupported by data, it is biased, histrionic, and decidedly unscientific. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My 2015 Shooting Season Starts!

I know some of you who populate the warmer climes never really have to stop shooting due to bad weather - and my jealousy knows no bounds - but here, my season has taken a four-month hiatus. With the exception of one day of nice weather last month, I have been limited to playing in my basement. And that was mostly revolver.

But today finally marked the official start to my USPSA Production shooting season. The weatherman said the high was going to be 50 degrees. He lied. The mercury never climbed out of the 30's -- and there were flurries. "Hot Hands" packets and multiple fleece layers were the only things that kept my trigger finger mobile. I even threw on my camo 10x shell that I got at Media Day for an extra layer and windbreak. It really helped.

I had the good fortune of meeting and squadding with the folks who would be going to Production Nationals with me. Did I mention that? I was given the opportunity by my USPSA Section to shoot at Production Nationals in August at PASA in Illinois. I am both honored and a little intimidated. But like every other big match that intimidates me, I'm looking at it as a learning experience, and a chance to stretch myself and meet new people. I will do the best I can and be happy with that.

So, the match ... well I found out how rusty I am. Which, it turns out, was not as bad as I had feared. I wasn't fantastic, but I wasn't terrible. (For the C class shooter that I am) The classifier stage was even a "par time" stage. I hate those - mostly because I can be accurate when I take my time - but I am almost never fast. I did manage to get all my shots off within the par time - but not all the shots were good ones - or even hit the cardboard - LOL.  But this time last year I didn't even get all my shots off, so progress is being made. It's all a learning experience. :-)

My personal highlight of the match was "cleaning" the Texas star in 5 shots. I have never done that before. Everyone who reads this blog knows that the Texas star is my arch nemesis. The first time I encountered one, I emptied every magazine on my belt and still had some plates left when I ran out of ammo. Since then, things have improved somewhat, but I still always seem to have several misses and end up chasing the last plate. 

Granted, this particular star was sitting out all winter, and was thus ungreased and maybe a little slow turning, but I take my victories where I can find them. I nonetheless finished it with 5 shots, and I was ecstatic! My inner Dowager Countess reminded me that "One must always HOLSTER, before one commences vulgar displays of celebration", so I did temporarily restrain myself before I happy danced LOL. But I DID happy-dance :-)

Here's hoping that the 2015 season will be FILLED with many more vulgar displays of celebration!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Vaccines and Ammunition

Warning - Rant ahead!

I'm finding a parallel lately between two subjects, which for most people are usually pretty disparate. However, being "Dr. LateBloomer", in my life they're not so disparate. Those subjects are Vaccines and Ammunition. I could hardly have picked two more inflammatory subjects to address this evening, but this is a rant, so "Damn the torpedoes - Full Steam Ahead"!

How do those two subjects end up playing in the same sandbox in my mind you ask? Because both are being attacked by those who have agendas. And the tools used for those attacks are exactly the same - Ignorance and Misinformation.

Let me start with vaccines, and you may soon start seeing parallels with some recent news about rifle ammunition. 

I have been asked by parents for the third time in a month if vaccines "contain aborted fetuses". My initial reaction was "Whiskey". "Tango". "Foxtrot". In other words - "What in blue blazes are you talking about?". After the third inquiry, I'd had enough, and decided to get to the bottom of this ridiculous bit of inflammatory misinformation. 

It turns out that this is just the anti-vaxxer's way of moving the goalpost. Since their autism claims have been disproven, they've moved on to claims about aborted fetuses as vaccine ingredients instead.

As with most intentional misinformation campaigns, this starts with a tiny kernel of truth, and relies upon general ignorance of science and fact to launch the subsequent hysteria. ( Is any of this sounding similar to anti-gunner tactics?)

The tiny kernel of truth in this instance is that vaccines start with growing viruses (or bacteria as the case may be). Viruses in particular are very picky about how they allow themselves to be grown in a laboratory. The pickier ones will only grow inside actual animal or human cells (called cell culture) The pickiest ones will only grow inside specific human cells. The cells for this type of culture are grown and sold commercially in a complicated, and very scientific process of cell line propagation. The cells are just that - "cells". They are not "tissue", they are not "people" and they are not "fetuses" - aborted or not. 

Cell lines are essentially potting soil for growing viruses. The true misinformation lies here. Because some human cell lines now commercially available and used for growing viruses for vaccines, originated from cells collected for scientific purposes, from donated fetuses aborted legally for medical reasons in the 1960's; people who are scientifically unsophisticated think this means that vaccines "contain" aborted fetuses. This is no more true than saying that your baby food applesauce has manure and dirt as an "ingredient" - just because the apple tree which produced the apples required soil and fertilizer to grow.

It's actually even further away than that. These cell lines have been propagated ( cells induced to divide to make new cells) hundreds of millions or trillions of times or even more in the 50 years since the original cells were first collected. These no more represent the original human being they were collected from, than the man in the moon. Add to that, the fact that those cells are only used to grow the VIRUS, which is then even further refined to make the vaccine, and you can see how ridiculous ( yet inflammatory) those claims are.

Even the Vatican has weighed in on this. My paraphrase of that position is that although the abortion 50 years ago was an evil, until a better way is found to grow the virus, it would be an even greater evil to allow our children and the general population to be exposed to suffering and death, if there exists this useful, if imperfect, way to prevent it.

So, are you seeing any parallels with general anti-gunner propaganda methods? They've been trying to move the goalpost again too. They've been unsuccessful banning guns, so now they're going after ammo. They tried with "lead", and now the ATF is trying on the "armor-piercing" label to see if it sticks. Though I admit that the term "armor-piercing" isn't quite as inflammatory as the term "aborted fetuses", it is just as misleading and just as untrue to the situation. But the uninformed general public doesn't know enough to question it - in either situation.

This is what the "anti's" of whatever stripe count upon - ignorance. Ignorance like that demonstrated by the White House press secretary who claimed that the firearms which used this ammunition were "easily concealed", and that allowing such ammo to continue to be available "puts our law enforcement at considerably more risk."

The reality is that AR-"pistols" are far from "concealable", and there is no evidence that law enforcement has EVER been "at risk" at all from such ammo, let alone "more" at risk now than they were when the ammo was originally waived back in the 1980's. AND any rifle round will penetrate soft police armor anyway. AND the M855 round doesn't even meet the ATF's OWN definition of an armor-piercing round to begin with.

But the uninformed don't know that either - they are just afraid of guns, know nothing about ammo, and believe the misinformation campaign. 

It's the same way with people who are afraid of vaccines - they know nothing of science ( or know just enough to be dangerous), and they also believe the misinformation campaign.

With both of these issues ( and indeed all of our issues), what we need as a country, is more citizens who are GENUINELY informed - with rational, logical thought, backed up by scientific evidence and reliable data - rather than glaze-eyed "followers", whose sole driving motivation is fear of everything that they do not understand.

Rant over.