Surgeon thinks his experience key to gun debate. It's not

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A lot of people have thoughts regarding the gun debate. As with any topic that impacts the nation so much, that’s not surprising. It’s normally even healthy to have so many people discussing the issues of the day.


Granted, that’s less good when it’s a matter of our rights, but it’s good when it’s other issues.

Yet some people don’t just have opinions. They think they have experience that is absolutely key to the gun debate and they’re not afraid to tell you all about how they know better than you.

A great example comes from an op-ed by a trauma surgeon.

The decrease in deaths related to smoking and tobacco use is one of the great public health achievements in California history. With smoking rates declining more than 50% since the 1980s, our policies have been credited with saving 1 million lives and $134 billion in health care costs. A key pillar to this success is an excise tax on the tobacco industry, with revenues used to fund a variety of smoking prevention and cessation programs.

The idea is simple but powerful: When an industry creates a product that harms society, redirect some of the profits from the sale of that harmful product to programs that will help alleviate the impact.

The problem is that firearms don’t harm society.

Comparing guns to tobacco is a big problem for me, mostly because tobacco use is one of those things that can be used recreationally, but is always going to be damaging to people’s health. Moreover, the tobacco companies knew it was dangerous and hid the truth, knowing it was addictive and trusting they could keep selling a product that had no real redeeming qualities


Firearms, on the other hand, actually do have positive qualities. Millions of Americans use them recreationally with no ill effects on anyone, be it hunting or competitive shooting. Others use them in a non-recreational manner such as self-defense, which I’d argue is still a positive for society since the gun can end a threat, thus making society as a whole safer.

More on this in a moment.

The author supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 11 percent tax on guns and ammo, unsurprising, and then gets to the point I really want to address, especially in light of his comments above.

I’m a trauma surgeon. I see firsthand what gun violence does to the body. Over and over again, I witness the destruction of guns tearing the bodies of people apart and tearing the fabric of our communities apart. I also see the benefits of programs like the ones that would be funded by AB 28. These programs are effective and work in conjunction with hospitals to offer hospital-based, trauma-informed care. Gun violence prevention efforts are working in the state, and it is critical that we increase funding.

This isn’t the first physician I’ve seen make this argument regarding the gun debate and it always strikes the wrong chord.


You see, as a trauma surgeon, he may see what “gun violence” does to the body. However, that doesn’t mean he actually understands the gun debate as a whole.

For example, I don’t care what a jacketed hollow point does to the body of the guy trying to rape a young girl or carjacking a single mother.

He’d see the damage done to their body, but he wouldn’t see the damage not done to these potential victims because they were lawfully armed.

As a surgeon–any physician, really–he’s in a situation where he sees one particular issue and sees it a lot. Anytime someone sees such a thing, it changes their perception. I’ve been that guy, so I know. I examined and wrote about one aspect of something so much that it was hard for me to remember that it wasn’t the whole picture.

The author here sees the worst of things, and often without the whole picture of even that case. An 18-year-old male with multiple gunshot wounds comes across the table, but does he know whether or not the patient was holding up a liquor store or just minding his own business when he was collateral damage in gang warfare?

Was this particular patient shot because he’d killed three people a week earlier?


The doctor doesn’t necessarily know. Hell, the police don’t know sometimes. Not until much later.

He also doesn’t know about the grandmother who ran off a would-be rapist because she had a snubnose revolver tucked away in a drawer. He doesn’t know about the guy who stopped a violent assault because he drew his Glock and shouted at the three guys trying to curb-stomp a fourth.

He doesn’t get the whole picture, so when he pontificates about the evils of guns and how we need regulation, he’s got a myopic view of the gun debate as a whole. It’s no wonder he equates guns and tobacco.

That doesn’t mean he’s right, though.

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