Public Health for Sale

I began to write this blog piece on February 9, 2018, before the most recent mass school shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The purpose was to address how the corporate sector’s assault on science, in order to weaken regulations and civil justice and in turn increase profitability, has been emboldened through a partnership with the current administration and its ties to industry. This was intended to be a discussion of the chronic injury caused to our public’s health by undermining independent scientists and government agencies charged with research and regulation of dangers that chemicals and products present to our health and environment.

However, mass shootings like we observed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School highlight a far more acute danger. This, of course, is the NRA’s multi-million dollar lobbying efforts to prevent any sensible gun control.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA invested over $4.8 Million in lobbying efforts in 2017, $11.4 Million supporting Donald Trump’s campaign for President and $19.7 Million opposing Hillary Clinton’s run for President.

The investment, of course, is made to protect a much larger revenue stream. Just one of the members of the gun industry, American Outdoor Brands Corporation, also known as Smith & Wesson, reported net sales of $722 Million in 2016.

The return on the lobbying and campaign contribution investment? Not only has the government failed to enact real gun control laws, states have actually passed laws that work to restrict private citizens from effectuating gun safety based upon science. The American Academy of Pediatrics for decades has been involved in advocacy efforts to address the detrimental effect of gun violence on our children. Here in Philadelphia, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is one of many institutions researching the effects of gun violence on children. CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention and Violence Prevention Initiative report that “The Level One Trauma Centers of CHOP and Penn treated 1,882 children and youth ages 24 years and younger for gunshot wounds in the years 2007-2016– or roughly 15 gunshot wound-related cases per month.”

CHOP reports these statistics in the context of 93 deaths by gunfire on an average day, 7 of which are deaths of children and teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Yet, it is reported that, under pressure from the NRA, the CDC stopped researching the prevention of gun-related injuries and deaths through gun-control in 1996.

The American Pediatric Surgeon Association has listed seven positions relating to gun safety. It should not be surprising that 4 of those 7 positions are directed towards rebutting interference by the gun lobby and remedying failures of our legislature to act:

  • Support a system of universal background checks for all firearms transactions, including private, internet, and gun show sales
  • Support removal of 1996 language from congressional appropriations bill that restricts the funding of firearms-related research. This research is necessary to make evidence-based decisions that address this public health problem.
  • Support limits on access to high-capacity magazines and assault-style weaponry.
  • Support removal or clarification of language in the Affordable Care Act censoring discussion about presence of firearms in homes with children between physician and families.
    • It’s especially important to provide such counseling when it is known that a firearm is present in home of a patient assessed to be clinically depressed or in a home with reported domestic violence.
    • A 2003 study showed that 64 percent of individuals who received verbal firearm storage safety counseling from their doctors improved their gun safety practices.

Note how defunding of firearms-related research leverages the imbalance of power created by the NRA’s ability to sink $31 Million into lobbying and campaign support/opposition efforts.

Not only has this industry imposed its influence on politicians, it has used that influence to impede healthcare professionals’ efforts to protect our children. Indeed, in 2011, NRA lobbying led to passage of the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act in Florida designed to prevent physicians from asking families about gun ownership and from counseling about gun safety on routine appointments. Florida was not the only State to pass such a law.

Not satisfied with more than $31 Million towards influencing our government, the NRA uses its own “NRATV” to assail those who speak out on gun violence and issues of gun control. Taunts of a “lying media” may sound familiar.


While school shootings appropriately captivate national attention and headlines, entire neighborhoods live under the spectre of gun violence on a daily basis. For those who don’t live in these communities, though, the problem may seem remote or become lost in the noise of the daily news feed, until tragedies on a larger scale force the nation at large to confront it face to face.

In my next blog I will discuss how, like the NRA, other corporations and industries strategically allocate funds for political gain and profit rather than putting in safety measures to protect families and workers. Stay tuned.