Letters to the Editor 7/26/18
THE REAL PUBLIC HEALTH HAZARD
I read the article by Daniel Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.H., captioned “Gun violence is a public health hazard” in the July 12 edition of Illinois Times. Unfortunately, Dr. Blumenthal’s conclusions are as shallow and misleading as his facts.
Firearm-related deaths for 2016 were 38,658. Of this total, 22,938 or 59 percent were due to suicide, 14,415 or 37 percent were due to homicide, 510 or 1 percent were due to legal intervention, 495 or 1 percent were accidental or preventable, and 300 were of undetermined origin.
Common sense suggests that 97 percent of those deaths would have occurred even without a firearm since people have been killing themselves and others by all available means from the beginning of recorded history. What about the trend? For the 23 years from 1993 through 2016, the rate of all firearm deaths per 100,000 people fell from 15.2 to 12. This is a decrease of 21 percent. Homicides fell from 7.2 to 4.5 per 100,000 people, or a decrease of 37 percent. Suicide rates remained constant at 7.1 per 100,000 people.
These decreases in firearm-related deaths occurred during a period in which firearm sales and ownership increased substantially.
But what about deaths from medical errors? A Johns Hopkins study claims more that 250,000 (some say 440,000) people die every year from preventable medical errors, making this the third leading cause of death in the U.S. (behind heart disease and cancer).
So, with 495 preventable gun deaths versus 250,000 preventable deaths from medical errors annually, I am beginning to see a “public health hazard” much closer to home than the good doctor is willing to admit.
The doctor simply fails to understand that not a single act of gun violence is prevented or deterred by punishing and restricting the rights of lawful gun owners. We all know that a “law enforcement approach” is required to reduce criminal activity. This involves the resources to investigate, arrest, convict and impose meaningful sentences to deter new and repeat offenders. Incarceration is the law enforcement equivalent of a “medical quarantine” needed to prevent the spread of homicidal activity. Unfortunately, the political will needed to implement a viable solution does not currently exist.
I assume the doctor to be a decent and honorable man, but he has been duped by Bloomberg’s nannies into becoming an activist with a tongue depressor. His own credibility is now on life support.
DRESSING FOR SUCCESS
I admittedly don’t know the first thing about fashion (nor do I really care to), but I believe life’s too short to mock homeless people for their lack of access to affordable and appropriate clothing (“Dressing for success,” Bruce Rushton, Illinois Times, July 19). I’m pretty sure those who are homeless are worrying about far larger things than the opinions of fashionistas.
SUPER POLLUTING TRUCKS
One of former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt’s last dirty tricks was to stop enforcing regulations on new trucks fitted with older engines that do not meet current environmental standards. These trucks are known as “glider vehicles” and have the appearance of a new truck (new exterior engine and cab body panels), and while they make up only five percent of the U.S.’s long-haul truck fleet, they account for one third of all nitrogen oxides (smog-forming pollutants) and particulate matter emissions from the fleet. These used engines can emit as much as 40 times the pollution of modern engines and are a clear case of a public health danger. By 2025, the EPA estimates that if left open, this loophole could account for as many as 13,000 premature deaths, not including additional emergency room visits and other health problems.
I urge Senators Sam McCann, Andy Manar and other area Illinois senators to push to keep these dangerously polluting trucks off our roads by putting pressure on new acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler.
More information is available from the Union of Concerned Scientists at http://ucsusa.org.
Richard F. Herndon