Mad Prophet's Sanctuary

Smoking Guns

by Dr. Paul Gallant and Dr. Joanne Eisen

In 1993, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report about the alleged dangers of second-hand smoke. That report was prepared with the purpose of the ultimate elimination of tobacco products in America, and used as the basis for countless legislative and bureaucratic restrictions on smokers throughout the country.

There was one problem, however: the EPA report was rigged. Big Tobacco fought back, and, on July 17, 1998, a U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the tobacco industry, barring the EPA from using the report for any purpose, including the promotion of smoking bans.

During this same period, America's firearm-prohibitionists were pulling the same kind of scam about a different kind of second-hand smoke: second-hand gunsmoke. Instead of the tobacco industry and cigarette smokers, their targets were America's firearm manufacturers and law-abiding gun-owners. In place of EPA's junk-science on tobacco, they used junk-science and falsified "research" on firearms and firearm-related violence.

A perfect example appeared in the 1993 New England Journal of Medicine. In order to inflate his figures and "prove" that the risks of keeping a firearm in the home outweighed the benefits, Dr. Arthur Kellermann counted 15 persons "killed under legally excusable circumstances" - i.e. violent criminals - among his collection of "victims."

In another study published just one year earlier, Kellermann lumped together lawful self-defense with outright murder, in order to "prove" that, when a woman is armed with a gun, the victim was "5 times more likely to be their spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a member of their family than to be a stranger...". That statistical sleight-of-hand provided him a pretext to "seriously question" the "wisdom of promoting firearms to women for self-protection". Kellermann's "research" has been taxpayer-funded through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

In deciding in favor of Big Tobacco, Judge William Osteen cited a litany of abuses perpetrated by the EPA. Not only had EPA exceeded the authority given it by Congress, but it "disseminate[d] findings to establish a de facto regulatory scheme intended to restrict plaintiffs' products and to influence public opinion..."

Junk-scientists are wrong to frighten people into believing that breathing second-hand smoke is just as dangerous as actually smoking tobacco, and that a gun in the hands of a law-abiding citizen is just as dangerous as one in the hands of a career criminal. Because, while many in this country endeavor to portray firearms as the root of all America's social ills, the facts are otherwise.

For instance, over a dozen studies, including one conducted for a gun control advocacy groups, have found that there are at least several hundred thousand defensive gun uses every year. And University of Chicago economist John Lott, in his book "More Guns, Less Crimes," shows that when licensed, trained citizens are allowed to carry handguns for protection (as they are in 31 states, currently), the violent crime rate drops 6 to 8 percent. Since criminals don't know which potential victims might be carrying a legal gun, even people who don't carry guns benefit from the deterrent effect.

These findings underscore one major difference between tobacco and firearms: there is an overwhelming benefit to society from the possession and use of firearms by ordinary citizens. Second-hand smoke, while not deadly, isannoying. In contrast, firearms possession by law-abiding citizens doesn't annoy anyone except gun control lobbyists, and it makes everyone The goals of firearm prohibitionists and tobacco prohibitionists are similar: in the case of firearms, it's to scare unknowing Americans into thinking that the public "hazards" of private firearm ownership far outweigh any possible benefits to their owners, and to the rest of society. Their strategy is to shape public opinion into creating a climate favorable to increasing civilian disarmament, using the same kind of increment

The firearms industry has all the ammunition it needs to fight back. It can prove that falsified research has been systematically used to effect restrictive firearm laws, and to mold public opinion against firearm ownership. Now, they have legal precedent to point to, in demanding relief for the same underhanded tactics.

Will America's gun makers have the will to seek such redress? We hope so. Their survival is in the interest of all Americans who wish their children to live in the safest society possible.

Dr. Paul Gallant practices Optometry in Wesley Hills, NY. Dr. Joanne Eisen practices Dentistry in Old Bethpage, N.Y. Both are research associates with the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colorado.

Previous Commentary    Next Commentary