Ideologues Versus Science

There is currently a battle going on between anti-science ideologues and those committed to a health-related change in the laws based upon science. You have doctors, public health advocates, and civil rights advocates on one side and you have the New York Times and anti-health prohibitionists on the other side. I am talking about the battle between those for and opposed to the Hearing Protection Act of 2017.

The New York Times weighed in the battle with an absurd editorial entitled “Echoes of Gunfire Hurt Tender N.R.A. Ears”. As per their usual, they conflated the number of deaths attributed to the use of a firearm to include intentional deaths (suicides), they misrepresented the intent of Congress for adding suppressors to the National Firearms Act, and they created a strawman by insisting the public would be at risk because “ShotSpotters” would not be able to hear gunfire.

The annual tally of 30,000-plus gun deaths accounts for just a tiny fraction of the total shots fired, most of which miss their targets but terrorize neighborhoods. Amid the lethal cacophony, the police in more than 90 cities here and abroad seek to reach the scene of the latest gun troubles more quickly by using an audio detection system called ShotSpotter, which triangulates the sound of gunfire onto computer maps. Police officers in major cities hail these precise early alarms of where the latest shooting is.

Yet despite these advances, the National Rifle Association argues, self-servingly, that noisy guns are a public health hazard. With the help of supporters like President Trump’s son Donald Jr., a gun hobbyist, it wants to roll back an 80-year-old federal law that tightly controls the sale of firearm silencers. Immune to irony, the N.R.A.’s congressional friends have introduced a measure called the Hearing Protection Act, which contends that the sound of gunfire is hard on the ears of gun owners.

“What about the rest of us?” the nation’s unarmed majority might well ask. When it comes to public health, the noisier a gun is, the better the chances for innocent bystanders to hit the ground and for police officers to apprehend the shooter.

I guess reading the Washington Post is beneath the editorial board of the New York Times. The Post reported only four days earlier that the CEO of ShotSpotter said their devices had detected suppressed gunfire in the past and would be able to detect it in the future with some fine-tuning.

Then there is Mark Kelly aka Mr. Gabby Giffords of Americans for Responsible Solutions (sic) who has been leading the charge against suppressors.

From a fundraising email:

One of those bills would lift restrictions on the sale of firearm silencers.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that firearm silencers work like you see them in the movies — where someone fires a gun and it wouldn’t wake a person sleeping in the same room.

But silencers do suppress sound and light when a weapon is discharged, and that makes them attractive accessories for criminals who want to conceal their crimes.

Attractive accessories for criminals? Really? Actually, criminals want to scare the shit out of you with the noise of a firearm report because it tends to make victims more compliant.

You would think someone who had been around jet engines like Kelly would have an appreciation for the damage that loud noises do to hearing. I know I do because every day for me is like a hot summer night in Mississippi where the crickets, cicadas, and tree frogs keep up an incessant noise. That is what tinnitus sounds like to sufferers like me.

On the rational, scientific side of this debate are groups like Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership. They have just released a position paper in favor of suppressors to prevent hearing loss. The four primary authors of the paper are all board-certified physicians specializing in otolaryngology or ear, nose, and throat issues. The following is from their executive summary of the paper:

Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a real public health problem:

The causal relationship between loud noise exposure and irreversible hearing loss has long been
recognized by medicine and the U.S. government.

NIHL is permanent and untreatable. Prevention is the only possible intervention.


Demonstrable need:

NIHL is the most prevalent service-connected disability among Veterans.

Per the CDC, 15% of adults aged 18 and over (or nearly 38 million American) have hearing problems.

Over 100 million Americans who own guns are at risk for gunshot-induced NIHL. Auditory injuries are
sustained by bystanders the same as by shooters.

Nearly all gunshots exceed the noise threshold for instant damage to the hearing cells of the inner ear.
And their explosive blast generates 1,000 times the force on the eardrum than the noise itself.


Benefit of suppressors:

Muzzle blast sound levels from most firearms range from 140 to over 170 decibels. 120 decibels is
considered the maximum safe level for short exposures (the intensity of a car horn 3 feet away). Ear
plugs and/or ear muffs only reduce noise by 20-30 decibels.

Evidence supporting the need for greater use of firearms suppressors comes from the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders, the
Centers for Disease Control, as well as academic and military research.

Muzzle-mounted suppressors are vastly superior to ear protectors, providing 50% greater noise reduction.
Only suppressors can make most modern firearms safe for hearing, as noise at gun ranges routinely
reaches 160 decibels.

I would urge readers to study the position paper issued by Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership. It provides great graphics and is extensively sourced. Moreover, unlike most doctor’s handwriting, it is both readable and understandable!

Our first suppressor arrived this week after a wait of over three-fourths of a year. As I said in that post, can you think of any other consumer product for the health and safety of both the purchaser and the general public for which you have to ask the government for permission to take possession of it on top of paying $200 for the privilege? It is time for Congress to act on the established science of hearing loss and pass the Hearing Protection Act.

Doctors For Responsible Gun Ownership Respond To Dr. Carson’s Suggestion

I had the opportunity to sit down with some of the physicians involved in Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership while at the recent Gun Rights Policy Conference. I was impressed by their dedication to gun rights and am glad that they are on our side.

Last week presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson hinted his possible support for the creation of a database of “dangerous people” to reduce mass shootings by preventing such people from gaining access to firearms. Dr. Carson further stated he does not oppose repealing the ban on federal funding for gun research at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Timothy Wheeler, director of DRGO, has released an open letter to Dr. Carson on these issues. Dr. Wheeler was one of the physicians who testified before the House Appropriations Committee back in 1996 about the CDC’s misleading research and its anti-gun advocacy.

The open letter is below:

Dear Dr. Carson:
As a nationwide group of fellow freedom-loving health care professionals, we are glad to see your candidacy for President.  We are gratified to have seen a change in your public statements on firearm policy since you entered the primary race. Along the way you have apparently become educated in the demographics and political philosophy of the American right to keep and bear arms.  These are things your otherwise extraordinary career may not have prepared you for, and we thank you for making the effort to learn them.
Still, your recent remarks supporting restoration of funding for gun research to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) make us wonder if you know why Congress reined in the CDC’s gun control research in the 1990s.
Part of the mission of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership is to guard against biased, agenda-driven advocacy science that attacks the right of gun ownership under the guise of legitimate science.  Unfortunately, gun control advocates at the CDC long ago assumed a central role in funding and supporting such advocacy science.  And as you know, research motivated by a political agenda is not real science at all.
I was one of three medical doctors who testified before the House Appropriations Committee in 1996 about the CDC’s misdeeds. We presented testimony documenting the CDC’s political agenda against gun ownership. Further, we showed the committee evidence of misuse of taxpayer money to fund gun control advocacy:
  • The CDC funded research culminating in numerous medical journal articles. The articles invariably proclaimed gun ownership to be a public health hazard. The most controversial was “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home,” (New England Journal of Medicine 329, no. 15, October 7, 1993). Its authors claimed that keeping a gun in the home increased the risk of becoming a homicide victim.
  • The authors incorrectly used a case control method to claim a causal relation between gun ownership and homicide risk. They improperly generalized from a highly selection-biased study group of inner city homicide victims to gun owners across the country, even in rural and low-crime areas.
  • In an official 1993 CDC publication, Public Health Policy for Preventing Violencesenior CDC administrators proposed allowing only police, guards, and the military to have guns. As an alternative they proposed the outright prohibition of gun ownership (see page 19 of original document).
  • In 1995 CDC grant money was used by the Trauma Foundation, a group of San Francisco gun control activists, to publish a newsletter promoting gun control. The CDC-funded newsletter advised readers to “organize a picket at gun manufacturing sites” and to “work for campaign finance reform to weaken the gun lobby’s political clout.”
  • The director at that time of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, Dr. Mark Rosenberg, has repeatedly made derogatory public statements about gun ownership. In a December 9, 1993 Rolling Stone interview Director Rosenberg was quoted as saying he “envisions a long term campaign, similar to tobacco use and auto safety, to convince Americans that guns are, first and foremost, a public health menace.”
We would not be surprised if you are unaware of the valid reasons for Congress’s defunding of CDC firearms research. Most major media outlets refuse to mention that history in their many protests about the defunding, since they are almost all unapologetic supporters of strict gun control.
More detail on the history of Congress’s defunding of the CDC is available at DRGO’s website in the three-part series titled “Public Health Gun Control: A Brief History”.  Broader commentary and documentation of the public health community’s deliberate campaign against gun owners is available at the website. We invite your critical review. And we wish you the best in the months to come.
Yours truly,
Timothy Wheeler, MD
Director
Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership
A Project of the Second Amendment Foundation