Dennis Petrocelli, MD is a clinical and forensic psychiatrist who has practiced for nearly 20 years in Virginia. He took up shooting in 2019 for mind-body training and self-defense, and is in the fight for Virginians’ gun rights. He is a regular contributing member of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership.

Dr. Patrick Neustatter recently penned an op-ed for the Fredricksburg Star supporting typical “common sense” gun control legislation.  I feel for my colleague because I too once believed the medical mythology that guns were bad and needed to be “eradicated.”  Over the past year-I celebrate my first guniversary next week-I’ve opened my Hippocratic eyes to actual facts and figures and have reached the conclusion that “guns save lives.”  Here’s my rebuttal to Dr. Neustatter’s piece.   

Shootings cause 100 deaths per day.

Human cause death, and nothing makes this clearer than research that shows that confiscation reduces gun-related suicide, but the suicide rates climbs nonetheless.  Why? Because people kill themselves and others, not guns, and when people are literally left to their own devices, they find another way.  This is why red flag laws are terrible ideas.  

Now, deaths per 100,000 in Australia, Canada and the U.K. are 0.9 , 2.0 and 0.23, respectively, compared with 12.21 per 100,000 in the U.S.

Cherry-picked numbers do not advance the discussion.  The U.S. ranks 30th worldwide for gun-related homicide, and the rate of gun violence per gun, since that’s what others want to focus on, is about 37,000 gun-deaths divided by roughly 420,000,000 guns for a rate of less than 0.01%.  This means that Americans are astonishingly “well-regulated,” or “in good working order,” with their guns.  

I doubt the U.S. government is ever going to get so authoritarian that guns will be needed to fight off its agents.

I’m sure Venezuelans thought the same thing when they disarmed in 2012, but I bet they changed their minds when armored personnel carriers ran over their own people in 2019, and their doctors were hauled off by thugs for protesting the lack of basic medical supplies in their hospitals.  Guns are about deterrence, and an armed population provides a necessary reminder to the government that its officials govern with the consent of the governed.  Human nature hasn’t changed much since the Bill of Rights was written, and history proves over and over what happens to unarmed civilians.  

The Washington Post reported the percentage of people who have used a gun in self-defense “is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliens.” And a survey by the Harvard School of Public Health said, “The National Crime Victimization Surveys provide little evidence that self-defense gun use is uniquely beneficial in reducing the likelihood of injury or property loss.”

I wouldn’t trust my life to The Washington Post or the Harvard School of Public Health.  I’m not a fan of the CDC either, but when it reports, begrudgingly, that guns are used defensively 1,000,000 times per year, I’ll believe it.  I don’t have Bloomberg’s armed security detail, and I don’t work for the Virginia Legislature on the other side of metal detectors and armed Capitol Police, so I’m concerned about criminal humans, not aliens.  

 …the firearms industry supports this fear

The gun industry provides “We the People” with one means of self-defense.  Those of us that carry guns do so not based upon fear, but concern. I’m don’t tremble when I holster my gun, but I’m fully conscious of the need to handle the gun safely and I’m aware of the types of situations that I might face and how the gun I’m carrying may or may not play a role, based upon many hours of ongoing training and practice.  

My opinion is that when confronted with the carnage that guns and their users are associated with, and which have no purpose other than shooting people/animals/targets, unlike other things we regulate, then it’s not unreasonable to take some precautions. 

I agree with precautions, just very different precautions.  If you’ve read this far and follow the numbers, these suggestions make perfect “gun sense”:

  • Fewer gun free zones.  Those retained must have armed perimeter defense and compensation for any injuries to those inside;
  • No early release for violent felons;
  • Free concealed carry training for any victim of any violent crime;
  • Expansion of concealed carry by law into places of worship;
  • Send “gun sense” legislation to the dustbin of history.