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David Stolinsky

Friday, December 1st, 2000

David C. Stolinsky, M.D. of Los Angeles is the designated recipient of the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month Award for December.

In nominating the retired medical school professor for the Award, John Michael Snyder, CCRKBA Public Affairs Director, stated that, “during these times, when gun grabbers are using every trick in the book to undermine the individual Second Amendment civil right of law-abiding American citizens to keep and bear arms, it is fortunate for our side that reputable professionals of the caliber of Dr. Stolinsky take the time and have the courage to step forward in a scholarly attempt to rectify the potential harm caused by this trickery.

“One of the main battles these dates is fought around the attempt of some to paint gun ownership as something inherently unacceptable from a medical point of view. Consequently, when men such as Dave Stolinsky come out and do battle on this front, it is most encouraging from the point of view of individual civil liberties, especially the right to keep and bear arms. He certainly is most deserving of this Award.”

In the November/December 2000 issue of Medical Sentinel, which is a Special Issue on Doctors and Guns (Part I) – A Failure of the Public Health Model, there is a closely written article on America: The Most Violent Nation? by Dr. Stolinski.

Included in the article is a table giving suicide and homicide rates for all 86 nations for which data are available.

“Regarding suicide,” writes Dr. Stolinsky, a retired medical oncologist, “the U.S. is in the middle of the pack, with 35 of the 86 nations having higher rates (38 using the most recent U.S. figure). Compared to the U.S. rate of 11.9, Russia has a rate of 41.2, Hungary 32.9, Denmark 22.3, Switzerland 21.4, France 20.8, and Japan 16.7. In general, Northern and Eastern European and Asian nations tend to have high suicide rates, while countries in Southern Europe and Latin America tend to have low rates.

“Is there a relation between suicide and strictness of gun control laws? Northern European and Asian nations tend to have rates and strict laws, while Latin American nations tend to have low rates and more lax laws. Hence one could make a spurious claim that strict gun laws ‘cause’ suicides. Such a claim would ignore many relevant facts. For example, Latin countries are mainly Catholic, with severe social pressures against suicide. Still, it makes as much (or as little) sense to say that gun laws ‘cause’ suicides as that they ‘prevent’ homicides.

“The U.S. suicide rate has fluctuated between 10 and 17 for a century, with peaks in 1908 and 1932, and shows no relation to gun laws or gun availability. The current rate is below the midpoint and falling slightly. Recently suicides in the young increased. Advocates of gun laws blame the availability of guns. But suicides in older Americans decreased. The advocates ignore this fact. If something bad happens, they blame guns; if something good happens, the ignore it. And this is called ‘research.’”

Moving to the homicide data, Dr. Stolinsky, co-author of Firearms: A Handbook for Health Professionals, published by the Claremont Institute, recalls that, “America is often said to have the highest homicide rate of any ‘civilized,’ ‘Western,’ ‘industrialized,’ or ‘advanced’ nation. Do those who make such claims believe that Mexico is uncivilized, Brazil is not in the Western Hemisphere, Russia is not industrialized, or Ukraine is retarded?

“Looking at the homicide figures, we again wonder about accuracy. Are ‘political’ killings (by the government or rebels) in Northern Ireland, Egypt, Israel, Guatemala, Peru, China, and elsewhere listed as homicides, listed separately, or concealed? We must admit that the U.S. has a higher homicide rate than any Western European nation. Still, 23 nations admit to higher rates: Armenia, Bahamas, Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, Paraguay, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sao Tome, Tajikistan, Trinidad, Ukraine, and Venezuela. Using the 1997 U.S. homicide rate of 7.3, Azerbaijan and Cuba also have higher rates. Nine nations (10 using the 1997 figures) including Russia have both higher suicide and homicide rates.

“There may be a lesson here. Perhaps the more we resemble Colombia with its drug wars, and Eastern Europe with its ethnic strife, the more our homicide rate will rise. In fact, homicide rates in some central cities, including Washington, D. C. with its ‘crack’ wars, are already as high as that of Colombia. This is not an encouraging thought.”

In his analysis, Dr. Stolinski notes also that, “the changes in the U.S. homicide rate over time are interesting. In 1900 there were few gun laws. New York had no handgun law and California no waiting period. Guns of all types could be ordered by mail or bought anonymously. And the homicide rate was 1.2, about one-sixth of what it is today. The homicide rate peaked in 1933, during the Depression, and then fell. It was low during and after World War II, but began to rise in the 1960s and 1970s, and reached its high for this century, 10.7, in 1980. It then fell to 8.3 in 1985, a fall of 22 percent. This welcome news was virtually ignored by the media, which emphasize rises in violence but downplay decreases. Homicide rose again in the 1980s, but not to its 1980 high. The homicide rate continued to rise following the Gun Control Act of 1968, while the fall in the 1980s occurred when anti-crime laws but no new anti-gun laws were passed.

“From 1991 to 1997 the U.S. homicide rate fell 30 percent. Liberals credit a strong economy and low unemployment; conservatives point to three-strikes laws and increasing use of the death penalty. We are uncertain which factors to credit. The portion of the population made up by males aged 15 to 24, the most crime-prone group, fell by five percent, so this can account for only a fraction of the 30 percent fall in homicides.

“In any case, the fall began in 1992, while the Brady Act (waiting period for handgun buyers) and the assault weapons ban went into effect in 1994.

“Clearly, these laws cannot be credited for a fall in homicide that had begun two years earlier. Violence is often like a Rorschach test – what we read into it depends more on us than on it. This subjectivity must be avoided.”

Dr. Stolinsky enjoys guns as a hobby. He took ROTC in high school and was handed his first rifle by a master sergeant wearing the Combat Infantry Badge and the Purple Heart from World Way II.