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I'm hearing, recently, that unless you have ever owned a gun that you are not qualified to talk about guns. In the same vein, to a lesser extent, many politicians and advocates on TV start or end their argument with "I own a gun". First of all, I wish more women participating in arguments about female reproductive health would end their statements with "...and I own a vagina". But, second, I don't understand what owning a gun has to do with this debate.

Does that mean only people who have had a disease are qualified to talk about it? Would you take treatment advice from someone who says "I've had the disease" but is not a doctor?  Of course, it is more comforting to know that your doctor shares your pain, so you may feel more confidence if your doctor also suffers from a particular disease. But that, alone, does not qualify a person to give medical advice.

What does knowing how to use a gun, or owning a gun, have to do with gun control, which an aspect of epidemiological study?

In fact, I will argue here that, unless you understand how to conduct such epidemiological studies, you are not qualified to talk about gun control, even if you have ever owned a gun.

Why? Because science is done in a certain way that puts the burden of proof on the person trying to prove a point. This is called the null hypothesis. For example, if I want to argue that guns increase violence, I must start with the null hypothesis that guns do NOT increase violence. Unless I provide enough data that demonstrates more than a 95% likelihood that my results are not due to chance, I do not have enough evidence to rule out the null hypothesis.

Doctors, MPHs and scientists are also qualified in gathering data that represents the population- a very difficult task. We can understand this predicament, when we look at how polls were conducted during the last Presidential election. Polls that were done solely through landlines would ignore primarily cellphone users. So, outcomes of the polls would be skewed against young people.

Doctors, and MPH's have to account for these sorts of biases in epidemiological studies all the time. So it is natural, that people who have such a background be considered experts.

This is why President Obama's executive order for the medical community to study gun violence is so important. This is why NRA's effort to prevent doctors from gathering such data is so despicable.

This is why the most important piece of this argument is peer-reviewed scientific literature, including this study conducted in Australia by the respected journal Injury Prevention which concluded that:

Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.
Gun violence is a public health crisis. Show this study the same sort of respect that you show a doctor informing you on a medical condition.

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Originally posted to coolelegans on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 11:47 AM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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