How AMA's Position On Guns Hurt Their Case On COVID

Right now, COVID-19 is still running around and an awful lot of people just don’t care anymore. To be fair, most people who catch it will fully recover without any issue. Not everyone will, though, particularly those with comorbidities. People like pretty much everyone else in my family.

Part of the reason no one seems to care is that so many people no longer trust the medical profession as a whole. While they may trust their doctor, that does extend to doctors as a group.

Over at the National Review, Kevin Williamson makes the case that part of the reason is because of the way the American Medical Association has come down on topics like guns.

There are a lot of people making a lot of bad decisions in regard to COVID-19. I wish they would make better decisions. But if some people do not seem to believe that they are getting a straight answer from the medical community about the pandemic, it may be because they remember not having got a straight answer from the medical community about gun rights, climate change, population control, abortion, and much else. If some people believe that the doctors and their organizations are playing politics with the pandemic, it may be because they remember the doctors and their organizations playing politics with a lot of other issues before.

For example: The efforts of the American Medical Association and similar organizations to medicalize the debate over gun control, part of a larger effort from progressives to pathologize dissent, is typical of the pattern. Doctors, like scientists, enjoy a great deal of prestige, much of it well-earned. That prestige is rooted in expertise that is specialized. But like the businessman-politician who argues that what’s needed is to run the IRS or OSHA as though it were a business, physicians mistakenly generalize their actual expertise and experience. It’s the same thing behind Michael Jordan’s baseball career: “I’m good at this, so I must be good at that.” And so a guy who belongs to a professional association in which there are other people who treat patients for gunshot wounds comes to believe that he has special knowledge about the questions of regulation and constitutional jurisprudence related to gun control, and that he has special moral and intellectual standing to speak on these questions.

To be sure, this is one of my pet peeves. Especially when debating one of these doctors who seems to think that their expertise in patching up someone who was shot somehow gives them the relevant expertise to debate firearm policy as a whole. While they’re certainly free to speak their piece, they often feel that anyone who disagrees with them that lacks this particular job experience is somehow unworthy of being part of the debate.

It isn’t just the politicization of the medical field that’s a problem, but the smugness of many practitioners who seem to think they’re the only ones who could possibly understand the debate.

Unless, of course, you agree with them.

Williamson continues, however:

And so it is, “Gun control is a public-health emergency,” “Population control is a public-health emergency,” “Climate change is a public-health emergency,” etc. But when the AMA speaks about climate change, it does not speak about the actual medical questions related to climate change; instead, it engages in simple, ordinary political activism, e.g., endorsing changes in the electricity-generating industry as though the world’s physicians collectively knew the first thing about operating utilities. Physicians are entitled to their opinion on this as citizens; but as physicians, they have a responsibility to invoke their medical authority only where it is actually applicable. To do otherwise is to damage the credibility of their profession — with the results that can be seen all around us right now.

The AMA asserts that “uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns, is a serious threat to the public’s health.” But it is not the “uncontrolled ownership” of firearms that results in all those murders — it is murderers and murderous intent. And so the AMA might as easily have written: “The failure to impose longer prison sentences on first-time violent offenders is a serious threat to public health” or, “The failure to create an actual police state is a serious threat to public health” or, “The failure to oogedy-boogedy is a serious threat to public health.” The policy preference comes first and the medicalized rationale comes after. And the policy is not the result of medical judgment but political judgment.

He’s not wrong.

For those who agree with gun control, the AMA’s stance is merely an acknowledgment of fact. Yet, as Williamson goes on to point out, gun violence has been trending downward for decades now. Doesn’t a “public health emergency” suggest the problem is getting worse?

Regardless, these are the same doctors who are advocating for keeping the economy shut down, mandating masks everywhere, and any manner of other things. Is it any wonder that so many people are dismissing them outright?

Look, my healthcare experience ended during the Clinton administration, so I won’t pretend to be an expert here. I’m not going to tell you what to do or even suggest it. Besides, you’re going to do what you’re going to do anyway.

What I will say, though, is that if the AMA is upset that they’re not being listened to by a large segment of the American population, well…they have only themselves to blame for it.