Obtaining an assault rifle should be as difficult as becoming a doctor

August 13, 2016

Not everyone can treat patients legally, and not everyone can hold a person’s life and future in their hands. That’s why we have medical schools and licensure fees and exams and state medical boards-to keep quacks and charlatans from hanging out a shingle.

Editor's Note: Welcome to Medical Economics' blog section which features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for bloggers to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Monya De, MD, MPH, who practices internal medicine and integrative medicine in the Los Angeles area. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Medical Economics or UBM Medica.

 

Dr. DeNot everyone can treat patients legally, and not everyone can hold a person’s life and future in their hands. That’s why we have medical schools and licensure fees and exams and state medical boards-to keep quacks and charlatans from hanging out a shingle.

 

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In America, though, we permit just about anyone to accumulate lethal weapons--like the AR-15 assault rifle responsible for so many mass shootings--with the power to end many people’s lives.

Apart from six states-Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, and California-these rifles, capable of 30 rounds of firing, are considered to be the same as any other rifle, and are legal to buy. They are also a public health problem, like cholera, HIV, and meningitis.

As with polio eradication, we need to get to the point at which they don’t kill or maim anyone.

Assault rifles-which didn’t exist at the time of the 2nd Amendment-amount to a license to kill, and most states grant that license to every person over 18 without a felony or documented mental illness.

 

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As we all know, that’s too many people with licenses they don’t deserve. That’s like giving a prescription pad to someone with a pulse who hasn’t murdered anyone yet.

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A man with a tattered police record-child molestation and a gun-related felony pled down to a misdemeanor at the ripe old age of 20-was found in California with a car full of explosives and rifles. It’s pretty clear he wasn’t just going to use them as props in an audition for a Hollywood military movie. Had he not been arrested for trespassing, he may have created another Orlando situation at the West Hollywood gay pride parade. This guy being able to buy guns was more like a heroin dealer getting a pharmacy license.

No, buying a deadly weapon, if they must be available in the United States at all, should be hard, just like becoming a health professional is hard.  

 

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Pre-medical students are constantly afraid of breathing the wrong way in front of an important professor.  They are model citizens, because model citizens should be the ones holding lives in their hands.

They curb their drinking to avoid the DUI that could end their chances for medical or nursing school. They volunteer their time, work as research lab servants for free, take difficult tests, and write and rewrite essays on why they should have a license to heal.

If gun owners are going to get a license to kill with a rifle that can murder 10, 20, or 30 people at once-they should have to make a fantastic case for it, and the process should be highly selective.

 

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They should have to pass difficult tests on firearm safety, not just cursory exams. They should write essays about why they should receive this privilege. Perhaps they are huntsmen in rural Montana who depend on game to feed large families. Writing, “I just want to have a big gun” would get their applications tossed in the trash can, just like saying, “I want to be a nurse to make money and have time off,” would.

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They should do hours of service with children orphaned by guns, and their expensive application fees and carry permit fees would help fund nonviolence and conflict resolution education in schools. DUI? Nope. Burglary? Nope. Angry and threatening outburst in college? Nope. Their letters of recommendation from church and employers should be sparkling with superlatives.

 

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Cavalier assault weapons laws have made Americans inherently unsafe. Even the AR-15’s maker would have thought this way. Bearing arms may be a right, but bearing this license to kill should be a privilege for the people who never breathed wrong in their lives.