Doctors Group Says Gun Study 'Doesn't Add Up'

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - A coalition of doctors supporting gun ownership is blasting a Johns Hopkins study that concludes that the licensing and registration of firearms makes it harder for criminals and juveniles to get guns.

Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO), a nationwide network of over 1,000 physicians and other health professionals who support the safe and lawful use of firearms, a project of the Claremont Institute, says the study doesn't add up.

"It just doesn't add up to good science," said Dr. Tim Wheeler, director of DRGO and a southern California surgeon. "For example, there was a 1997 Department of Justice survey of prison inmates that found that only 15 percent of their crime guns were obtained through legal retail outlets.

"So, I would wonder how could you keep criminals from getting guns by, as Johns Hopkins suggests doing, licensing and registering only 15 percent of the market. The answer is you can't," Wheeler said.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, which describes itself as "dedicated to preventing gun-related deaths and injuries."

As part of the study, which appears in the September issue of the journal Injury Prevention, researchers analyzed data on guns linked to crimes in 25 U.S. cities.

It specifically looked at how many of those "crime guns" were sold by in-state gun dealers. In states that required both licensing and registration for handgun purchases, fewer guns used in crimes had come from in-state dealers, the researchers said.

"A very low proportion of crime guns sold in-state indicates that criminals and juveniles are finding it difficult to obtain guns from local sources," said Daniel Webster, the study's lead author.

The study said seven states (Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Missouri) require licensing (applying for a permit to purchase a gun) as well as registration (database of all handgun owners).

"Our findings suggest that many states that have either registration or licensing but not both (for example, California and Maryland) may benefit by adopting more comprehensive handgun sales laws," said Webster.

Wheeler disagrees with that theory on scientific and constitutional grounds.

"First of all, the science," he said. "Many studies have been done including more than one Department of Justice survey or study that shows that ... criminals can get firearms if they wanted, no matter what, and that normal market channels don't apply to criminals."

He said 85 percent of firearms used by criminals don't come from retail stores; they come from friends and family, as well as the black market and through drug deals or trades.

On constitutional grounds, Wheeler believes licensing and registration of gun ownership could lead to violation of the Second Amendment.

"A lot of people think that it can't happen in America, but registration and licensing of legally owned guns has lead to confiscation of lawfully owned guns in England, Australia, New York and even right here in California right now," he said.

"So I think we all agree that violent criminals should never be allowed to own a gun, but decent law-abiding citizens should not have to get fingerprinted and get permission from the government to own a gun," Wheeler said. "It's your right under the Constitution."

He encourages the enforcement of already existing gun laws.

"First of all, there is no evil or mischievous thing that could be done with a gun that is not already against the law," Wheeler said. "And any further gun laws can only work against law-abiding gun owners and not criminals. The way you enforce the law against criminals is to apprehend and imprison criminals. And you leave the good people alone.

"It's that simple," he said.

Morning Editor Susan Jones contributed to this article.

See Earlier Stories:

Study Supports Gun Licensing and Registration (Aug. 30, 2001)
Gun Owners Group Lashes Out at 'Self Righteous Doctors' (Aug. 21, 2001)