Politics & Policy

One for the Second

The American Academy of Pediatrics is using worn-out rhetoric.

It was the moment in high Court jurisprudence that gun banners everywhere have long been dreading: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear District of Columbia v. Heller. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, and his gun-grabbing supporters, hope that the justices will reverse an appellate court’s decision to invalidate D.C.’s gun ban.

One of Mayor Fenty’s supporters is the American Academy of Pediatrics, soldiering on in its war on gun owners. The AAP has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of D.C.’s petition for the Supreme Court to hear its appeal. The AAP’s brief reads like a gun-control pamphlet, of the kind put out jointly by the AAP and Handgun Control, Inc.’s Center to Prevent Handgun Violence back in the 1990s. Changes in the political climate, and accumulating scientific evidence, have all but neutralized the public health antigun arguments. Other organized medicine groups who previously lobbied for gun control seem to have realized this. For some years they have been quiet on the issue. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is stuck in the 90s.

#ad#Their brief contains these simulations of truth and appeals to emotion:

‐ “The United States generally and the District of Columbia in particular face the cruel reality that their children and youth are being slaughtered and maimed by handguns.”

Waving a bloody shirt got the pediatricians and other public health gun banners a lot of media attention years ago. It’s not likely to have as much traction with the justices today.

‐“In response to this public health epidemic, the District of Columbia carefully considered and then enacted reasonable legislation narrowly tailored to thwart the crisis.”

Narrowly tailored? Reasonable? It bans handguns outright. In practice it bans all other guns as well. Rifles and shotguns in one’s home must be disassembled or otherwise disabled, making them useless for home defense.

‐“When a gun is carried outside the home by a high school-aged youth, it is most likely to be a semiautomatic handgun (50 percent) and next most likely to be a revolver (30-percent).”

This factoid states as a breathless revelation the well-documented preference of criminals, even young ones, for high-quality handguns instead of larger and less concealable firearms. Not stated is the factoid’s inapplicability to “high school-aged youth” who are taught responsible firearm use by their fathers.

‐“…each year nearly 90 children are killed and approximately 1,400 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for unintentional firearm-related injuries.”

A little context would be helpful here. The justices might find it useful to know that a few more kids die each year from adverse effects of medical care, and 12 times as many die from drowning. Better ban doctor visits and bathtubs too, if Mayor Fenty and the council really care about the children.

‐“In 2004, firearm homicide was the second leading cause of injury death for persons 10 to 24 years of age, second only to motor vehicle crashes.”

Note the subtle shift from kids 14 and younger to a higher age group that just happens to include the prime age for involvement in violent crimes. One reason public health gun control activists lost their credibility years ago was this kind of statistical flim-flammery.

‐ “Incredibly, in that same year, firearm homicide — not car accidents — was the leading cause of death for African American males between the ages of 15 and 34.”

Now the pediatricians are up to age 34 and they’ve thrown in the race card. And by the way, how can African American men or anybody else die by being shot in D.C.? Guns are illegal there.

‐ “In addition, the relatively low incidence of gun-related violence in America’s schools proves that gun bans work. Thanks to the absolute prohibition of guns on the nation’s elementary and secondary school campuses, fewer than one percent of school-aged homicide victims are killed on or around school grounds or on the way to and from school.”

Another factoid. This merely reflects the fact that schools are generally orderly and safe places for kids. The exceptions are chaotic urban schools in high-crime neighborhoods and the relatively rare but devastating mass school shooting. Neither exception describes responsible gun owners, whether they are young people or adults.

Gun-control organizations seem worried that the Supreme Court will agree with the D.C. appellate court that the Second Amendment affirms an individual right to keep and bear arms. Such a ruling would seriously weaken the nationwide web of gun control laws enacted over the last 40 years, and groups like the Brady Campaign (formerly known as Handgun Control, Inc.) know it. Brady spokesman Paul Helmke admitted in an Associated Press article on October 4, that his organization suggested that D.C. not appeal the issue for fear of losing.

As with all matters before a court, the outcome of D.C. v. Heller is not certain. But it seems that the planets are lining up for champions of the Second Amendment. There is no longer any doubt that the founders meant it to affirm an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the so-called collective right of the states is a fabrication. If the amicus brief of the American Academy of Pediatrics is any indication, the gun ban movement has not only run out of steam, it has run out of credible arguments for denying D.C. residents, and other Americans that most natural of rights — the right to self defense.

 – Timothy Wheeler, M.D., is director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Claremont Institute.

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