In a refreshing approach to resolving gun violence issues in the United States, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Committee on Trauma says gun owners are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, when it comes to solving gun violence issues. Unfortunately, the solutions suggested run counter to those most gun owners would support, and for good reason.
The ACS on Nov. 14 published recommendations from its Firearm Strategy Team (FAST), which includes incorporating viewpoints and ideas from firearms owners on how to best curb gun violence. The report claims the 22 doctors who compiled it “realize that the community of firearm owners often [is] approached as a part of the problem, but less commonly approached as a part of the solution.” The report indicates 18 of the 22 doctors who compiled it and its recommendations are “passionate” owners of firearms. The group includes hunters and former military personnel.
“Preventable injury, disability and death from intentional violence related to firearms is unquestionably a major public health problem in the U.S.,” said lead author Dr. Ronald M. Stewart of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
The doctors advocate a “public health approach” to what they call an “epidemic” of firearms injuries and violence. A key component of the public health approach is to engage owners of firearms to address firearms violence.
The aim of the trauma surgeons is to:
- Increase firearms safety;
- Reduce the probability of mass shootings;
- Reduce firearm-assisted violence;
- Address mental health issues;
- Encourage federally funded firearms research; and,
- Preserve the right to own and use a firearm.
While the list of the surgeons’ aim is reasonable on the surface, the amount of reason employed begins to fade upon closer inspection.
Perhaps the most appalling recommendation is a call for creating an electronic database of all registered firearms. That means a publicly stored record of every firearm and its owner. Such a record likely also includes the home addresses of owners of every registered firearm.
Why would that be a concern? The Freedom of Information Act correctly makes all information collected and stored by public entities on public databases available to the general public. The chilling effect such a policy would have on Second Amendment rights is affirmed by the actions of a New York newspaper in 2012. The Journal News drew outrage over publishing an interactive map that listed the names and addresses of every holder of a handgun permit in two counties. Concerns over the published list include invasion of privacy, as well as informing every criminal in the area which homes have firearms that might be worth stealing.
Publishing the list also raises the potential for harassment of licensed firearms owners who have done nothing wrong. When coworkers and employers who might not support the Second Amendment can determine who does or does not own firearms by consulting a government-mandated list, firearms owners could face discrimination in the workplace.
One critic of the The Journal News compared the newspaper’s list to Nazi Germany forcing Jewish citizens to wear yellow Stars of David while in public. The newspaper’s publisher defended its actions, saying it was reporting publicly available information in the wake of the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting at a grade school.
The publisher, Janet Hasson, said she wanted to publish even more information, but was surprised to learn reporters could not access information regarding the types and numbers of registered firearms. In other words, Hasson wanted to let people know exactly what type and how many firearms are located in each home in the newspaper’s coverage area.
The surgeons’ recommendations also include background checks for all firearms transfers, including private transfers among family members. Want to buy your dad a new shotgun for Christmas? Better keep it registered in your name until after you reveal it, and then transfer the registration to your father after the big day.
The surgeons say they are in favor of reasonable measures and want to work with gun owners to curb gun violence. Yet, their recommendations are not ones most sensible gun owners would support. They are, though, the kind who would want to confiscate firearms prefer to have in place.
Meanwhile, criminals will continue stealing firearms and trading them on the black market without regards to registration recommendations by the group of trauma surgeons.