David Hemenway Given Platform to Mislead on Guns by Obscure Online Outlet

Gun Rights

David Hemenway, a Professor of Health Policy at Harvard University’s Injury Control Research Center, has been a proud proponent of anti-gun “research” for many years. Rather than relying on criminologists and experts in law enforcement to diminish violent crime where firearms are used, Hemenway long-ago jumped on the anti-gun bandwagon of trying to frame the discussion about gun-control from an approach of addressing it as a “public health” issue—as if there is some sort of vaccine that could be developed to stop violent criminals from being violent criminals.

One might consider him simply misguided, or perhaps he has just bought into what many on the far left do whenever faced with something they wish to control; frame it as a “public health” crisis.

But with Hemenway, it may be that he just hates guns and law-abiding gun owners, and all of his “research” he claims supports his radical theories is guided predominantly by confirmation bias. And who better to offer support for the theory that this particular anti-gun researcher just hates guns and gun owners than Hemenway himself?

A recent interview with Hemenway was posted by the online outlet Undark, a relatively obscure digital magazine with ties to any number of media outlets that hold extreme anti-gun views. Publishing partners include outlets that have shown anti-gun bias such as HuffPost, Mother Jones, NPR, Salon, and Slate. It should come as no surprise that Undark would give Hemenway a platform for his anti-gun views.

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The piece opens announcing its bias, referring to “gun violence” in the opening sentence. “Gun violence” is one of the most popular terms created by anti-gun extremists, as it is so hard to define, and at the same time so malleable in its application.

Then, Undark purposefully leads the next sentence with the distressing proclamation, “More Americans died as a result of gun violence in 2021…that (sic) in any other year on record,” before noting that the more telling rate of firearm-related fatalities is still lower today than during the 1970s. Unbiased researchers are more concerned with rates than raw numbers, which should tell you what you need to know about the folks at Undark.

Leading up to the interview, Dan Falk, the articles author, makes the same false claim that countless other anti-gun advocates have made for decades, alleging the 1996 Dickey amendment prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “from using federal money to conduct research into gun-related violence.”

That has never been true.

And although tax dollars should never be used to promote the erosion of our right to arms—a right protected under the Constitution—there are untold billions of dollars available from the private sector to fund such activity. Billionaires Michael Bloomberg and George Soros are just two prominent names that have funneled hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars of their personal wealth into anti-gun efforts, including research. In fact, Hemenway himself has benefitted financially as a Senior Soros Justice Fellow.

So, seeing how Falk exhibits his own anti-gun bias, you can just imagine how the interview would go.

Hemenway starts with what you would expect from a shill for the gun-ban movement; complaining that the United States has “lots, lots more guns” than other countries, lamenting that too many are handguns, then claiming “we have all these military weapons that are easy for anyone to get.”

It is true that Americans own more guns than other countries (thank you Second Amendment!), and that a great many of them are handguns. But those in the hands of law-abiding gun owners—the vast majority of our guns—are not the problem. Furthermore, since Americans enjoy a relatively established right to self-defense—something that may not be so easily said about many other countries—it should not come as a surprise that so many guns owned are handguns, considering they are the most popular type of firearm (although certainly not the only suitable option) lawfully purchased for people concerned about defending themselves against violent attack.

As for those “military weapons that are easy for anyone to get,” that is an intentionally disingenuous claim. While Hemenway is conflating semi-automatic firearms with the usually fully automatic firearms issued by the military, the simple truth is that rifles of all types are rarely used in crime, let alone whatever limited subset Hemenway would describe as “military weapons.”

Then, when asked about his “public health approach to combating gun violence,” Hemenway makes some curious references to objectives he seems to have that he believes will address obesity. He mentions an apparent desire to make access to food he considers unhealthy more difficult, and “make it harder” for people “to be couch potatoes.” Maybe he can achieve the food aspect by banning certain foods of which he doesn’t approve, much like he wants to ban certain types of guns; although he’d likely rather ban then all.

How he intends to “make it harder” for people “to be couch potatoes” is a bit more of a mystery, but since people tend to get exercise when they are out using their firearms in any number of legal ways—whether it be hunting, at the range, walking a sporting clays course, or training—his goal of getting rid of guns seems counterproductive.

Hemenway also makes some odd references to how hospitals treat people who have been shot. He’s clearly referring to people who are already involved in criminal activity when he talks about a theoretical hospital staffer’s response to someone who comes in with a gunshot wound.  He imagines someone saying, “Oh, someone came in for a shooting; what can we do to make sure to help them so that it’s less likely that they will go back and get shot, less likely that they will retaliate and shoot somebody else?”

The obvious answer is to try to get that person to give up the criminal lifestyle, not impose more restrictions on law-abiding gun owners who do not contribute to such hypothetical situations, but that hardly seems like an appropriate job to add to the list of things doctors and nurses must do.

He goes on to talk about working with women’s groups in Boston to educate them about the illegality of straw purchases. While that seems innocuous enough, there is already an explanation that such actions are illegal whenever anyone goes to purchase a firearm from a licensed gun dealer. It’s put in writing on the forms one must fill out to make a lawful purchase—along with an explanation of potential penalties for violations—and most licensed gun dealers are trained to be on the lookout for obvious straw purchases.

Hemenway then talks about suicide, but as it is ingrained in his psyche to lie about guns, he claims “evidence…that a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide in the home is overwhelming.” Anti-gun advocates like Hemenway have been trying for decades to convince Americans that owning a gun increases the risk of suicide, seemingly ignoring the myriad factors that contribute to someone taking their own life just so that they can blame guns.

But gun control does not reduce suicide, and anti-gun researchers have regularly been caught manipulating their research to try to prove otherwise.

To his slight credit, Hemenway does mention a colleague who has worked with gun shops, ranges, and firearm instructors to raise suicide awareness. That seems a laudable approach, but a far cry from the type of government restrictions, including banning firearms, Hemenway seems to embrace.

Psychiatrists may also want to take note of Hemenway’s views, as he makes a casual, passing reference to what he seems to perceive as malpractice for any psychiatrist who does not approach a patient who owns guns in a manner Hemenway (not a trained psychiatrist) does not approve.

Finally, Hemenway, an economist and “researcher” one would expect to use facts and reason, is given the opportunity to summarize what he feels is the state of things in America as they relate to guns. The interviewer even leads him to discuss statistics, referring to the “datasets and policy based on evidence,” then asking, “So, is it working?”

But here’s where Hemenway makes clear he just doesn’t like guns or gun owners.

Rather than talk research and numbers (not that we would trust his “research” anyway), he simply complains, “No, things have gotten worse in the United States. More people are carrying guns, there’s more military weapons out there, gun ownership rates have increased a little bit. A lot of bad things are happening.”

In other words, law-abiding citizens carrying firearms is bad, as is the fact that more law-abiding Americans are becoming responsible gun owners. And, of course, he had to throw in the lie again about “military weapons.”

This is unsurprising, coming from a man whose Wikipedia entry attributes the following quote to him:

 “The gun is a great equalizer because it makes wimps as dangerous as people who really have skill and bravery and so I’d like to have this notion that anyone using a gun is a wuss. They aren’t anybody to be looked up to. They’re somebody to look down at because they couldn’t defend themselves or couldn’t protect others without using a gun.”

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