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U.S. Senators bent on more gun control used a hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee to attempt to yet again diagnose violent crime in America as a public health disease. Their only proposed cure, of course, is more gun control.

In the eyes of one witness, it was another instance of gun control efforts putting their playlist on repeat, hoping that each time they play the same soundtrack they will somehow convince America that the only prescription to solving the revolving door of crime is to abandon Constitutionally-protected rights. The problem is crime is a behavior and not a disease, best addressed by strict enforcement of existing laws.

Not Crime. Public Health.

The hearing started with a video montage played by Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), highlighting many of the grotesquely-exploited images of mass murder incidents that were previously published by The Washington Post and earned media scorn. Sen. Durbin said in his opening statement, “Across the country, gun violence is a public health epidemic, plain and simple.”

Note the carefully chosen phrase. Sen. Durbin didn’t refer to criminal misuse of firearms or repeat violent offenders who prey on innocent lives. In his estimation, guns are a pathogen. Eradicating them, even for lawful owners, is the only way forward. The carefully-edited video was capped by a CBS News interview with Dr. Celine Grouner, Epidemiologist at New York University & Bellevue Hospital, to underscore Sen. Durbin’s attempt to reframe crime.

“I think reframing this as a public health crisis, you know I’m an infectious disease specialist, many of the people in my field have actually turned to gun violence recognizing that gun violence behaves like an infectious disease,” Grouner said. “It is contagious. Violence is passed on from person-to-person.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) exposed the reality of what this reframing attempt really is. He pointed to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s emergency public health order that attempted to suspend the Second Amendment rights of citizens in certain parts of her state.

“She was warned repeatedly by officials in her state that such a suspension violated the Constitution,” Sen. Cornyn said. “But unfortunately, that doesn’t mark the end of the road for this latest attack on what is a Constitutional right. That’s something some of our colleagues consistently overlook and the fact is that a firearm in the hands of a law-abiding citizen is not a threat to public safety.”

‘Trust Issue’

Sen. Cornyn wasn’t done exposing the ruse.

“Washington Democrats have, unfortunately, chosen to follow Governor Grisham’s lead and are now using public health as a guise to address their concerns,” he added.

Sen. Cornyn pointed to the COVID-19 response to the crisis when politicians shut down commerce and denied churches the ability to gather congregants, despite a protected right to freedom of religion and to peaceably assemble. Yet, no response was made to riots that cost the American public hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

“So we have a trust issue and a Constitutional issue when we use the public health approach to attempt to strip away core Constitutional rights,” Sen. Cornyn said. “The other problem with the public health approach is the most effective solution to firearm-related homicides and assault is effective criminal law enforcement. That means effective police, prosecutors, courts and prisons. We know that these tools actually work.”

Focus on Criminals

Sen. Cornyn effectively pointed out that law-abiding gun owners aren’t the problem. It is criminals, and the public health approach to achieve gun control disproportionately affects those who obey the law. Criminals who ignore the law aren’t affected. Smarter responses would focus on those criminals.

“One of the reasons for this is concentrations of gun violence is among small numbers of the population,” he added. “In Washington, D.C., for example in 2021, a study found that only 500 people were responsible for up to 70 percent of the gun violence in the district.”

Sen. Cornyn spoke of the successes Congress has made without infringing on Second Amendment rights, including the FIX NICS Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump, and named after NSSF’s FixNICS® initiative to get states to enter all disqualifying records to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

“The point is, we can find ways to come together to get things done, but using public health authorities as a blanket excuse to strip away Constitutional rights or framing gun violence as an epidemic divides us more than it unites us,” Sen. Cornyn said. “And it really kind of misses the point. These are not autonomously-fired weapons. They involve human agency. And as we’ve seen, when we focus on the humans, we can have a very positive impact.”

NSSF has rejected attempts to frame criminal misuse of firearms as a public health crisis. This invites too many Constitutional questions, as Sen. Cornyn appropriately pointed out. Both federal and state governments demonstrated during the COVID-19 crisis that they were all too willing to trample on Constitutionally-protected rights in the name of “public health safety.” New Mexico’s Gov. Grisham didn’t learn that lesson and continues to deny Second Amendment rights that aren’t for her to “allow” for citizens in her state. Those rights belong to the people.

Rebranding the criminal misuse of firearms as a “public health crisis,” while not a new strategy of the political left, raises considerable concerns. Analyzing a criminal justice problem with an epidemiological lens ends with a distorted picture of a very real issue. Misidentifying the problem ensures that no real solutions will be found. No vaccine will be discovered. No pill will be developed. And more importantly, no solutions will be identified.

Article by Larry Keane


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