When Bias Matters More Than Research Facts

Far too many anti-gun doctors use their status as physicians to lend a certain gravitas to their gun-grabbing diatribes. They may even be motivated by their profession to try and stamp out the scourge of gun violence.


I disagree with them and argue it’s often none of their business except as a private citizen, but that’s neither here nor there.

What is, however, is when a doctor writing in a medical journal, advocates for measures his own research says are useless.

Doctor Garen Wintemute’s latest contribution to “the prevention of firearm violence” comes in the form of a Perspective column published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Wintemute, you may recall, is the Director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program and the UC Firearm Violence Research Center. He proposes a two-prong solution to stop mass shootings.

The solution, according to Doctor Wintemute? So-called “comprehensive background checks” and emergency protective orders, which “allow courts to have firearms removed temporarily from people who pose an imminent hazard to others or themselves but are not members of a prohibited class.”

Wintemute begins with a list of six mass shootings, the perpetrators of which all passed background checks. There were missed or ignored signs in some of these cases and evidence of systemic institutional failure in others – including opportunities to have the perpetrators involuntarily committed before their actions. Wintemute acknowledges his own research found “no evidence of an association between the repeal of comprehensive background check policies and firearm homicide and suicide rates in Indiana and Tennessee.” To be blunt, the comprehensive background check laws didn’t affect relevant homicides.

His own research doesn’t stop Wintemute from pressing forward with his agenda. “But the findings do not support a conclusion that background-check requirements are fundamentally ineffective.”


Now, it’s possible that Wintemute merely conflates “comprehensive background checks” with something else, such as deeper background checks. If he’s using the term, it’s on him to use it correctly, especially when his research says that things using that particular term didn’t work.

Personally, I’m not buying it. I think Wintemute knew what a comprehensive background check was and knew what his research said. He just didn’t care.

The problem is that far too often, gun control policies are not pushed based on facts but on feelings. They think guns are easy to get, so they want to make it harder for people to get them. It doesn’t matter that criminals get them through extra-legal means such as purchasing them fraudulently or buying them on the black market. What matters is that they’ll feel a little better.

In other words, gun control laws are little more than their security blankets.

They’re pacifiers to help the anti-gun children sleep a little better at night.

After all, if it were about actually reducing crime, then Wintemute would have taken a step back and recognized he was advocating for a policy initiative that had been tried and had failed since that’s what his research illustrated. Instead, he decided to double down. Why would he do that unless it was for some reason other than saving lives?


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