BELLEVUE, Wash. – Before the American Academy of Pediatrics offers any more advice to its members about telling parents to remove guns from their homes, the medical community needs to dramatically reduce its own body count, said one of the nation’s leading firearms civil rights activists.
The Chicago-based pediatrics organization, which represents about 55,000 children’s doctors nationwide, recently urged its members to ask questions about guns in the home, then advise parents to get rid of those guns.
Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, a Bellevue-based gun rights group, quickly responded, “This is ludicrous! For the medical community to worry about potential accidents due to the presence of guns in the home would be hysterically funny, if it were not so tragically hypocritical.”
Gottlieb pointed to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine that so-called “medical mistakes” in this country annually claim the lives of between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans.
“Compared to the estimated 1,500 accidental firearms deaths reported by the National Safety Council in 1997 – the most recent year for which data is available – it looks like the medical profession needs to clean up its own act,” Gottlieb observed.
That same year, there were 32,436 firearm-related deaths. The figure includes murders, suicides, justifiable homicides and accidents in the home, and hunting accidents. This is still below the number of accidental deaths blamed on medical mistakes, even if using the most conservative estimate offered by the Institute of Medicine, he stressed. It also does not reflect the continuing decline in the number of accidental firearms deaths, while gun ownership has increased.
“The math still doesn’t work,” he remarked. “Tally it up. Medical mistakes apparently kill up to sixty-five times the number of American citizens that are victims of gun accidents. Yet, instead of focusing on the body count rolled up by medical misadventures, the press and politicians are screaming about gun control. This just doesn’t make sense.”
Gottlieb noted other comparisons that put accidental gun deaths far behind in this country’s “mortality race.” For example, over 40,000 people die each year in automobile accidents, and another 15,000 die in falls, according to the National Safety Council. Approximately 4,000 people, including infants, die in drownings.
“According to the National Safety Council,” Gottlieb noted, “more people choke to death on food or other objects than die in gun accidents.”
But Gottlieb kept his attention on medical errors.
“If there were ever a more appropriate time for people to rise up and demand, ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ I don’t know when that would be,” he stated. “Instead of worrying about the potential safety hazard of a gun in the home, perhaps the American Academy of Pediatrics should be more concerned about the scalpels in their colleagues’ hands, or the erroneous prescriptions they write that land patients in hospitals, or cemeteries.”