The Brand New Senior Years: A Child’s Dying Brings ‘Trauma That Does Not Go Away’

Paula Span

The Brand New Senior Years

Anne McBrearty Giotta doesn’t remember a lot of what went down with that August morning in 2013.

One moment she was cursing her older boy, Michael, who had been designed to have selected her up for any lengthy-planned beach weekend, but was late and never answering his phone.

The following moment, law enforcement were at her door in River Vale, N.J., stating that Michael, 51, have been found dead in the home of the apparent heart infection.

“Don’t let me know lies like this,Inches she told the officials inside a barely softened brogue.

Ms. Giotta immigrated from Ireland six decades ago, labored like a accountant, elevated five children after which divorced. In her own lengthy existence — she’s 87 — “that was the worst time.”

To possess a child die before you decide to, at all ages, upsets what we should all say is life’s natural order. “You lose part of yourself,” Ms. Giotta stated. Children are meant to outlive us. Once they don’t, grieving parents can suffer depression, poorer health and greater rates of ruptured marriages even decades later, scientific study has found. “This is really a trauma that does not disappear,Inches stated Marsha Mailick, a social researcher in the College of Wisconsin-Madison that has studied death.

But to become a classic person when a grownup child dies brings particular trials, both emotional and practical. “The loss means different things at that point of existence,” Dr. Mailick stated. “It may have a profound effect.”

It takes place more we may think. Researchers in the College of Texas at Austin, reviewing data in the federal Health insurance and Retirement Study on 1992 to 2014, are convinced that 11.five percent of individuals over age 50 have forfeit a young child. The figure is way greater among blacks (16.7 %) than whites (10.2).

But individuals percentages don’t inform us once the child died. Searching particularly at child deaths after parents have switched 50, the figure…

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Scientists Are Monitoring West Earth Virus in La Using Chickens

EL MONTE, Calif. — The chickens are utilized to the needles.

It normally won’t fuss when vector ecologist Tanya Posey pulls paves the way of the coop inside a community garden here, firmly grasps a Leghorn, and pulls a bloodstream sample from its wing vein. She’s so great, she will bleed a chicken within thirty seconds.

That’s useful, because she provides extensive chickens to check.

Greater than six dozen sentinel chickens, residing in coops dotted around La, constitute among the first lines of defense within this sprawling county’s combat West Earth virus. The condition is a background threat for a long time here, but cases have spiked this fall to worrisome levels. Six deaths happen to be as reported by La County this season — including three just a week ago.

And also the cases are alarmingly severe: Of 98 reported infections here this season, 79 have brought to serious nerve negative effects, and 87 have needed hospitalization. Because it’s still peak bug season, more deaths are anticipated.

So local public medical officials now launched an exciting-out attack. They’re delivering groups of eco-friendly-shirted vector control agents door-to-door to inform residents to put on bug spray, install window screens, and dump the stagnant water in which the insects breed. They’re plastering the county with posters that read “It’s Not only a Bite” and “No Es Solo United nations Piquete.” They’ve even produced a rap video having a fetid pool, a huge dancing bug, and groups of uniformed agents rapping, “You’ve reached dump water out, drain water flow, tip water out, chuck the ball water slow.”

“You’ve reached dump water out, drain water flow, tip water out, chuck the ball water slow.”

On the national level, a duo from Johns Hopkins and also the Bill &amp Melinda Gates Foundation a week ago petitioned for any new bug emoji, quarrelling that could lend some buzz to public health efforts.

West Earth virus causes no signs and symptoms in 8 of 10 infected people, based on the Cdc and Prevention. However, many, specially the very youthful and incredibly old, could possibly get fevers, fatigue, and flu-like signs and symptoms. (Dr. Lyle Petersen, the director from the CDC’s division of vector-borne illnesses, experienced that misery themself in 2003, as he was infected with West Earth virus after visiting get his mail without insect repellent.)

Herpes is responsible for greater than 2,000 deaths within the U.S. because it first made an appearance in New You are able to in 1999. States hit hardest recently include California, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and . This season, 22 states have previously reported 49 deaths and 658 of the very most severe cases, referred to as “neuroinvasive,” which could involve meningitis, encephalitis, and paralysis.

But a minimum of within Los Angeles, residents don’t appear to worry.

“You can’t imagine just how much outreach we’re doing, but it’s really challenging people to concentrate,Inches stated Kelly Middleton, who directs community matters for that Greater La County Vector Control District.

Some experts blame complacency, because West Earth now has wrinkles news. Others blame the several weeks of attention in the last year on Zika, another bug-borne virus that induce grave birth defects if this infects women that are pregnant. Though there isn’t any evidence Zika has been transmitted by nasty flying bugs in Los Angeles, residents nevertheless appear centered on that — rather from the much more prevalent threat of West Earth.

“Certainly all of us worry about infants and birth defects, so Zika will get lots of attention,” stated Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, deputy chief from the county’s program for acute communicable disease control. “But West Earth causes more deaths than Zika does — also it causes them each year.Inches

Flocks of chickens generate vital data

To manage West Earth virus, first you need to know where it’s lurking. It’s a monumental job for the district, which provides coverage for a territory in excess of 1,340 square miles — roughly how big Rhode Island.

The district has some 180 bug traps. Checking all of them involves grueling drives 5 days per week by two field assistants.

But merely discovering virus inside nasty flying bugs doesn’t make sure the insects are infectious. Finding infected wild birds does. The district collects and tests dead wild birds — crows and blue jays — when residents alert them, but such reports could be spotty.

Therefore the district depends on its sentinel chickens, checking their bloodstream for West Earth virus antibodies every two days.

On the recent day, Posey and her teammate Harold Morales checked several 10 white-colored Leghorns — the legendary white-colored chickens with vibrant red combs. (An effort to make use of Rhode Island Reds unsuccessful miserably the wild birds couldn’t handle the Los Angeles heat.) Seven from the chickens had already tested positive for West Earth, so Morales bled the 3 that hadn’t, shedding a couple of milliliters of bloodstream onto filter papers he’d later send to some condition testing lab.

“It’s much like visiting the physician and becoming a bloodstream sample,” stated Susanne Kluh, who heads disease surveillance for that district. “Some get feisty, but it’s pretty easy around the chickens.”

Wild wild birds don’t appear in your thoughts the needles, either. Many which have been trapped for surveillance, banded, and released return frequently towards the traps — where they may be tested again to find out if they’ve immunity. “They give their bloodstream and obtain free food,” Middleton stated. “The same wild birds return every week.Inches

Unlike sparrows, finches, jays, and crows — which could die from West Earth as well as transmit it to new nasty flying bugs — chickens don’t become ill or spread herpes. Indeed, the sentinel Longhorns are healthy enough that local gardeners gather their eggs and employ their manure for fertilizer. Once testing season leads to late fall, the wild birds receive away — for pets or meat. “They’re good eating,” stated Kluh.

And they’re good data generators, helping Kluh and colleagues produce a precise map of in which the virus is active. The district may then target outreach and abatement efforts.

Human cases are extremely slow to become helpful for surveillance, she stated, because individuals frequently don’t visit the physician immediately and doctors don’t always report cases. (Indeed, the amount of actual West Earth deaths is probably greater than mentioned due to underreporting, public medical officials say.)

A military of invading nasty flying bugs

La County public medical officials credit the vector control district with maintaining your outbreak from being far worse. However for Kluh and her team, every West Earth dying is tough.

“It’s hard,” Kluh stated. “We go really personally.”

This month, 84-year-old Julia Shepherd, an energetic grandmother from the La suburb, died of West Earth after becoming paralyzed and disoriented.

The situation is the type public medical officials fear, one which steals healthy seniors — individuals that appears to be outdoors — of either their lives or their independence. Some 1 / 2 of seniors who’ve been have contracted nerve signs and symptoms have still not retrieved remarkable ability to operate individually following a year, Schwartz stated.

A notice on the coop that holds sentinel chickens.

While they’re focussed on West Earth, that is transmitted by Culex nasty flying bugs, Kluh and her team still monitor multiplication of Aedes aegypti, which could transmit Zika. She’s also tracking Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger bug that’s a carrier of dengue and chikungunya. And she’s got her eye around the recently showed up Aussie Mozzie mosquito — Aedes notoscriptus — that transmits yet other infections.

“I guess There is employment,Inches she joked.

Kluh sees a silver lining within the invasion of those aggressive new species. Unlike California’s resident Culex nasty flying bugs, the newcomers bite humans greater than wild birds, bite all day long lengthy, and have a tendency to boost welts which are itchier and much more noticeable. Due to this, lots of people listed here are finally beginning to complain about nasty flying bugs — and that’s music to Kluh’s ears.

“Because it’s so uncomfortable,” she stated, “people might finally start protecting themselves from getting bitten.”

Republished with permission from STAT. This article originally appeared on September 29, 2017

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Nick Reprograms Cells to Regenerate Broken Tissue

The opportunity to convert, or “reprogram,” cells into other forms has elevated wants regenerating broken braches and organs. But existing methods are dangerous or inefficient and also have been attempted only on laboratory creatures. A brand new technology could overcome these limitations, however. Scientific study has tried on the extender to revive hurt mouse legs and claim the process is protected enough to check in humans.

Cells are usually reprogrammed using mixtures of DNA, RNA and proteins. Typically the most popular method uses infections like a delivery vehicle—although they are able to infect unintended cells, provoke immune responses as well as turn cells cancerous. One alternative, known as bulk electroporation, exposes cells for an electric field that pokes holes within their membranes to allow in genetic material and proteins. Yet this process will stress or kill them, and just a little proportion is

Tissue nanotransfection, described inside a study printed in August in Nature Nanotechnology, involves a nick that contains a range of small channels that apply electric fields to individual cells. “You affect merely a small part of the cell surface, in contrast to the traditional method, which upsets the whole cell,” states study co-author James Lee, a compound and biomolecular engineer in the Ohio Condition College. “Essentially we produce a small hole and inject DNA directly into the cell, therefore we can control the dosage.”

Chandan Sen, a physiologist at Ohio Condition, and the colleagues created a genetic cocktail that quickly converts skin cells into endothelial cells—the primary element of bloodstream vessels. Then they used their technique on rodents whose legs have been broken with a severed artery that stop bloodstream supply. New bloodstream vessels created, bloodstream flow elevated, after three days the legs had completely healed.

The transformed cells also made an appearance to secrete reprogramming materials in extracellular vesicles (EVs) that targeted much deeper tissue. Injecting rodents with EVs harvested in the skin of other treated rodents was competitive with while using nick itself. They also converted skin cells from rodents into neuronlike cells and transplanted them into mouse brains broken by stroke, increasing the animals’ mental function. “As an evidence of principle, this [approach] is extremely nice,” states neurobiologist Benedikt Berninger of Johannes Gutenberg College Mainz in Germany, who had been not active in the study. “A big question could be: Are we able to get [EVs] to transform only specific cells?”

They wishes to begin human trials inside a year. “Considering what is done,” Sen states, “this might be transformative.”

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The Zika Virus Increased Deadlier Having a Small Mutation, Study Suggests

It remains among the great mysteries from the Zika epidemic: Why did the herpes virus that existed for many years elsewhere on the planet all of a sudden appear to get more destructive if this arrived in South America?

Why did the Zika virus cause a large number of babies to become born with microcephaly, abnormally small , broken brains, when previous outbreaks in Africa and Asia appeared to result in significantly less harm?

An intriguing study in rodents, that has motivated some skepticism among experts, shows that just one genetic mutation helped transform the Zika virus right into a devastating pressure in South America. The report was printed on Thursday within the journal Science.

The mutation, known as S139N, first came about within an Asian strain from the Zika virus in 2013, right before a little outbreak in French Polynesia — the very first associated with a rise in babies born with microcephaly. Zika is considered to possess first made an appearance in South America later in 2013, possibly created by soccer players from French Polynesia competing inside a tournament in northeastern South america. The mutation has made an appearance in each and every strain from the virus within the Latin American outbreak, they stated. The research, by scientists in China, discovered that strains of Zika using the S139N mutation caused substantially more dying and microcephaly in rodents than other strains. As well as in a laboratory dish, the S139N strain wiped out a lot more human cells vital that you early brain development than an early on strain with no mutation.

Some experts voiced doubts, saying the findings were too preliminary to determine that the single mutation was the critical factor. A minimum of, they stated (and also the study authors agree), the outcomes should be replicated in primates, because laboratory experiments with rodents as well as mind cells cannot fully capture the way the virus functions anyway.

“It’s potentially important, and it…

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Just One Mutation Helps Modern Zika Cause Birth Defects

A small change—just one mutation—appears to possess boosted the current Zika virus’s capability to attack fetal cognitive abilities, fueling the wave of birth defects involving microcephaly (small mind size) that lately taken over the Americas. The findings are reported Thursday in Science.

Researchers in China discovered that just one swap of amino acids—from serine to asparagine—on a structural protein from the Zika virus happened a couple of several weeks prior to the virus first required off in French Polynesia in 2013.

The team’s results can start to reply to a superb question in the Zika epidemic: Why have Zika-related microcephaly along with other brain abnormalities been observed in areas hard-hit by outbreaks previously couple of years but away from the decades following a virus’s discovery in 1947? One theory would be that the Zika–microcephaly connection formerly travelled individually distinct since there were too couple of cases to determine the hyperlink. Another leading theory is the fact that something concerning the modern virus has altered, letting it infect cognitive abilities more proficiently than its ancestors could. The brand new work suggests the second holds true. “This is an extremely good study also it provides a plausible explanation that’s scientifically based,” states Anthony Fauci, director from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Illnesses in the U.S. National Institutes of Health. He adds the results is going to be further strengthened if other groups replicate them.

Not every alterations in a virus are significant. Infections constantly mutate because they replicate, that has made identifying functionally important changes difficult. However the Chinese research team catalogued the variations between modern Zika as well as an ancestral strain isolated from the patient in Cambodia this year, after which employed computer modeling software that recommended one amino acidity mutation—called an S139N substitution—was likely important.

They tested that concept by infecting newborn rodents (which developmentally look like a human fetus) with various lab-made versions of Zika. They found virus using the S139N mutation caused probably the most harm to the animals’ cognitive abilities. Then the scientists confirmed their findings using reverse genetics—swapping just one substitute mutation for S139N into a normally identical Zika virus. They infected newborn rodents with either of these two versions of Zika, and located the S139N-free version was less dangerous towards the creatures. Additionally they replicated a few of their testing in human neural stem cells within the lab, and noted the current Zika virus wiped out more cells than an ancestral strain.

How the S139N mutation strengthens Zika’s capability to infect cognitive abilities remains unknown. Since the mutation is at a protein that can help make up the virus’s structure, it might have something related to binding—perhaps allowing herpes to bind to cells with greater affinity, Fauci states.

Despite this latest finding, china researchers still concede their study is probably and not the final word on which causes Zika-linked microcephaly. They found the S139N swap caused probably the most severe clinical outcomes they also note other modern Zika virus strains without it mutation (some occurring within the wild yet others which were lab-made) may also cause mild microcephaly along with other cellular injury to rodents. “Besides host factors [for example low immunity towards the virus in affected communities], you will find certainly another unknown viral proteins or proteins that could lead towards the complex pathogenesis of microcephaly—independently or synergistically,” states lead author Chen-Feng Qin, chair from the Department of Virology in the Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology.

“Our study identified a distinctive genetic determinant that links to severe microcephaly,” Qin adds. The job might have other implications for Zika control, too. Qin states subsequent experiments for testing vaccine or antiviral drug effectiveness should use contemporary strains using the S139N mutation. And Qin also cautions: Any future Zika vaccine which includes a live but crippled type of the virus—like one presently in development in the NIH—should not contain this dangerous mutation, although the virus is attenuated (altered to get less virulent).* The NIH states its candidate vaccine—which provides the S139N mutation—did not damage brain tissue in earlier monkey tests. NIH senior affiliate researcher Stephen Whitehead, who brought individuals experiments, states the brand new findings (that involved rodents using the virus administered to their brains) might not reflect how primates would react to infections injected through their skin.

Still, removing potentially problematic mutations is one thing Fauci states will probably be worth thinking about. “If you’ve something having a neurotrophic (nervous system–related) mutation and therefore are creating a live-attenuated vaccine,” he explains, “it will make sense to delete might not have access to a mutation there.”

*Editor’s Note (9/28/17): This sentence was edited after posting. The initial erroneously mentioned this live-virus vaccine had been tested through the NIH in phase I trials in South Usa.

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Reducing Youth Tobacco Use within Hawai‘i Through Prevention


By Tiffani Kigenyi, Miles per hour, Public Health Analyst, ODPHP and Susan Pagani, MFA, Health Author, CommunicateHealth, Corporation.

Our Tales in the Field series highlights how communities nationwide are addressing the Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicators (LHIs). LHIs are critical health problems that — if tackled appropriately — will dramatically lessen the main reasons for dying and avoidable illnesses.

This month’s story includes a program that’s tackling the Tobacco LHIs:

  • Adult smoking cigarettes (TU-1.1)
  • Adolescent smoking cigarettes in past thirty days (TU-2.2)

Browse the story below, then check out other Tales in the Field on

Smoking cigarettes may be the leading reason for avoidable disease and dying within the U . s . States — each year, it’s accountable for 480,000 deaths. While smoking is decreasing within the U . s . States, greater than 2,500 youthful people smoke their first cigarette every day. Actually, 9 in 10 adults who smoke say they attempted their first cigarette before age 18 and almost all attempted their first cigarette by youthful their adult years.

In 2015, an Institute of drugs (IOM) report forecasted when the U . s . States immediately elevated the minimum legal sales age (MLA) for cigarettes and tobacco products from 18 to 21, there’d be roughly 223,000 less premature deaths for individuals born between 2000 and 2019.

Right after the discharge from the IOM report, Hawai‘i grew to become the very first condition to pass through a “Tobacco 21” bill. What the law states, Act 122, elevated the MLA for selling, possessing, buying, or cigarette smoking products, including e-cigarettes. It produced penalties for selling cigarettes and tobacco products unlawfully and fines and community service for purchasing, possessing, or with them unlawfully.

Lila Manley, Program Manager for Hawai‘i Condition Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Education Program (TPEP)

Partnering to tell Change

Lila Manley may be the Program Manager for that Hawai‘i Condition Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Education Program (TPEP). When requested how Hawai‘i passed Tobacco 21, she states the timing from the IOM report was great — however it was just a bit of the puzzle. Public support for Tobacco 21 what food was in 77%. “And we’re able to not have access to been successful without working hands-in-hands with this coalition partners within the tobacco control community,” she states. “They were crucial for generating public support and grassroots mobilization, especially to obtain Hawaii’s youth involved with our campaign.”

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a nonprofit that actually works across the country and in your area to lessen tobacco use, provided advice and sources for that initiative. It produced “21 Good reasons to Enhance the Age” brochures with tear-off petitions for distribution in Hawai‘i public schools. And it is Kick Butts Day, a nationwide event where youthful people speak out against tobacco, was answer to the campaign.

For Kick Butts Day on March 15, 2015, the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i organized a youth rally in the condition capitol in Honolulu. The Coalition introduced youth all over the condition to go to the rally, submit their “21 Reasons” petitions, and talk with their legislators. The youth used T-shirts with key messages meant for Tobacco 21.

“It really was effective to possess these youthful people — the generation that’ll be impacted probably the most — visit the capitol and talk with decision makers,” Manley states. The balance moved with the legislature very rapidly: it has been around since The month of january 2015, passed in April, and signed into law by Hawaii’s governor, David Ige, in June.

Growing momentum:

Prevention Among Youthful People Is Essential

Manley states that changes to our policy like Tobacco 21 laws and regulations are crucial to tobacco use prevention in Hawai‘i. “Our program is all about altering the atmosphere and social norms around smoking,” she explains. “We’re which makes it harder to gain access to cigarettes and tobacco products and harder to smoke them — inside or outdoors.”

For instance, Hawai‘i has prohibited cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use within all enclosed worksites, including restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. All condition parks and many county beaches are actually smokeless. The condition also bans self-service tobacco displays, which reduces access and  lowers the chance that cigarettes and tobacco products (especially flavored ones) will be provided near chocolate and food.

Raising the MLA for cigarettes and tobacco products was an essential accessory for these efforts since it causes it to be harder for youthful individuals to buy cigarettes — in order to get others to purchase them. “A large amount of youthful smokers used older peers to obtain cigarettes on their behalf,Inches states Manley.

Because the condition elevated the MLA for tobacco from 18 to 21, current smoking cigarettes in Hawai’i declined from 15.3% in 2015 to 12.% in 2016 for individuals age 18 to 24. However, this decline may be the consequence of multiple factors, and additional scientific studies are going ahead to look for the independent impact from the MLA law.

Ongoing Efforts in Tobacco Control

Building on the prosperity of the Tobacco 21 law, TPEP is ongoing its efforts in Honolulu County to stop smoking in vehicles whenever a minor exists. As well as for next year’s condition legislative session, the tobacco control advocates aspire to regulate and tax e-cigarettes to be able to both hinder youth initiation and monitor compliance.

“This is essential because, while rates of smoking cigarettes go lower, e-cigarette use rose among Hawaii’s youth,” Manley states. The amount of Hawai‘i public students who reported trying e-cigarettes leaped from 5% this year to 22% in 2015.

While there’s always more that you can do, Manley states Hawai‘i is happy with its tobacco prevention work — and she’s confident they’re creating a difference. “The possibility of these efforts in order to save lives lower the street is actually gratifying.”


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‘Flesh-Eating Bacteria’ From Harvey’s Floodwaters Kill a Lady

As soon as the waters started rising in Texas recently, disease was on health officials’ minds. Floodwaters, in the end, are filthy.

When Hurricane Harvey finally moved north and also the ft of flooding drained, hospitals saw an increase in skin and gastrointestinal infections, but Texans were able to escape probably the most serious illnesses that contaminated water can spread: cholera, for example, and typhoid.

, however, the Harris County medical examiner’s office announced the dying of the 77-year-old lady 11 days earlier have been brought on by necrotizing fasciitis: a nasty and frequently deadly infection generally referred to as flesh-eating bacteria.

The lady, Nancy Reed, contracted the condition when she fell in the flooded home in Houston’s Kingwood community and broke her arm, allowing bacteria in the floodwaters in through cuts. Hers was the 36th storm dying recorded in Harris County. Porfirio Villarreal, a spokesman for that Houston Health Department, stated the town had received not one other reports of necrotizing fasciitis because the storm. However a nonfatal infection was confirmed in nearby Missouri City, Tex., where J. R. Atkins, an old firemen and paramedic, contracted the condition while helping neighbors escape the floodwaters. In Mr. Atkins’s situation, The Houston Chronicle reported, the bacteria joined with an insect bite on his arm. Someone else, Clevelon Brown of Galveston County, died not of necrotizing fasciitis but of sepsis the result of a different bacteria in the floodwaters. In necrotizing fasciitis, bacteria infect the fascia, a kind of ligament. The bacteria can establish toxins that destroy the tissue. (They don’t eat it, regardless of the “flesh-eating bacteria” label.)

If caught early on, the problem may be treatable with antibiotics and surgery. However, many patients lose braches, as well as with treatment, 25 to 35 % die.

A multitude of bacteria may cause the condition. The most typical is group A streptococcus, exactly the same germs accountable for strep throat. This is actually the only kind of…

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Does Evolution Repeat Itself?

Scientific American belongs to Springer Nature, which owns or has commercial relations with a large number of scientific publications (most of them are available at world wide Scientific American keeps a strict policy of editorial independence in reporting developments in science to the readers.

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Senate Republicans Say They’re Not Going To Election on Health Bill

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans formally abandoned the most recent intend to repeal the Affordable Care Act, shelving a showdown election around the measure and effectively acknowledging defeat within their last-gasp drive to satisfy a core commitment of President Trump and Republican lawmakers.

The choice came under 24 hrs following a pivotal Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, declared her opposition towards the repeal proposal, basically making certain that Republican leaders could be lacking the votes they needed.

“We haven’t abandoned altering the American healthcare system,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, most leader, stated following a lunchtime meeting of Republican senators. “We will not have the ability to do this now, however it still is coming up next people, so we haven’t abandoned that.”

The Run-Up

The podcast which makes sense of the very most delirious stretch from the 2016 campaign.

Mr. McConnell stated Republicans would proceed to their newest legislative goal: overhauling the tax code, a task that is not accomplished since 1986. Democrats, who’ve spent all year long fighting to safeguard the Affordable Care Act, legislation that’s a pillar of President Barack Obama’s legacy, responded by with the resumption of bipartisan negotiations to stabilize medical health insurance markets. Republican leaders had squelched individuals talks because the latest repeal plan, compiled by Senators Lindsey Graham of Sc and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, acquired steam. “We hope we are able to move ahead and improve healthcare, not participate in another fight to consider it from people, simply because they will fail once more when they try,” stated Senator Chuck Schumer of recent You are able to, the Democratic leader.

The choice by Senate Republican leaders may end up being a milestone within the decades-lengthy fight over medical health insurance within the U . s . States, suggesting the Affordable Care Act had acquired a minimum of a reprieve and possibly a stride of political acceptance.

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and also the chairman…

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More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows

After I pulled the trigger and recovered from the recoil, I slowly refocused my eyes on the target. There it was—a tiny but distinct circle next to the zombie’s eye, the first bullet hole I’d ever made. I looked down at the shaking Glock 19 in my hands. A swift and strong emotional transformation swept over me. In seconds, I went from feeling nervous, even terrified, to exhilarated and unassailable—and right then I understood why millions of Americans believe guns keep them safe.

I was standing in a shooting range 15 miles south of Kennesaw, Ga., a place known as “America’s Gun City” because of a law requiring residents to own firearms. It was day two of a four-day road trip I’d embarked on to investigate a controversial and popular claim made by the gun lobby: that more guns protect more people from crime.

Guns took more than 36,000 U.S. lives in 2015, and this and other alarming statistics have led many to ask whether our nation would be better off with firearms in fewer hands. Yet gun advocates argue exactly the opposite: that murders, crimes and mass shootings happen because there aren’t enough guns in enough places. Arming more people will make our country safer and more peaceful, they say, because criminals won’t cause trouble if they know they are surrounded by gun-toting good guys.

After all, since 1991, Americans have acquired 170 million new guns while murder rates have plummeted, according to the National Rifle Association of America (NRA). Donald Trump, when running for president, said of the 2015 shooting massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., that “if we had guns in California on the other side, where the bullets went in the different direction, you wouldn’t have 14 or 15 people dead right now.” Mike Watkins, a cop–turned–firearm instructor at the Kennesaw range, put it this way: “If I’m a bad guy, and I know this place has guns, it’s not a place I’m obviously going to want to go and do something bad.”

Gun City: Kennesaw, Ga., near Atlanta, has a law requiring citizens to own firearms (1). At the Governors Gun Club outside town, people practice shooting targets (2). Credit: Ben Rollins

Is there truth to this claim? An ideal experiment would be an interventional study in which scientists would track what happened for several years after guns were given to gun-free communities and everything else was kept the same. But alas, there are no gun-free U.S. communities, and the ethics of doing such a study are dubious. So instead scientists compare what happens to gun-toting people, in gun-dense regions, with what happens to people and places with few firearms. They also study whether crime victims are more or less likely to own guns than others, and they track what transpires when laws make it easier for people to carry guns or use them for self-defense.

Most of this research—and there have been several dozen peer-reviewed studies—punctures the idea that guns stop violence. In a 2015 study using data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University reported that firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns versus those with the least. Also in 2015 a combined analysis of 15 different studies found that people who had access to firearms at home were nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who did not.

This evidence has been slow to accumulate because of restrictions placed by Congress on one of the country’s biggest injury research funders, the CDC. Since the mid-1990s the agency has been effectively blocked from supporting gun violence research. And the NRA and many gun owners have emphasized a small handful of studies that point the other way.

I grew up in Georgia, so I decided to travel around that state and in Alabama, where the belief that guns save good people is sewn into the fabric of everyday life. I wanted to get a read on the science and listen to people with relevant experience: cops, elected officials, gun owners, injury researchers and firearm experts such as Watkins, who stood by my side as I pulled the Glock’s trigger.

Credit: Jen Christiansen; Sources: “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the October 7, 1993; “Suicide in the Home in Relation to Gun Ownership,” by Arthur L. Kellermann et al., in New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 327, No. 7; August 13, 1992; “Homicide and Suicide Risks Associated with Firearms in the Home: A National Case-Control Study,” by Douglas J. Wiebe, in Annals of Emergency Medicine, Vol 41, No. 6; June 2003

For clues on how guns affect violence, Kennesaw is an obvious place to start. On March 15, 1982, this city 24 miles north of Atlanta passed a controversial law: to “provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants,” Kennesaw would require that every head of a household own a firearm and ammunition.

Nearly 35 years to the day after the law passed, I drove down Cherokee Street in Kennesaw until I reached the Bobby Grant Center police annex, a small brick building perched in front of a large water tower. The annex houses the city’s detectives; the main police department is a quarter of a mile down the street. I picked up the entry phone next to the locked door and buzzed. One second later a big man with a moustache and goatee, who was clearly waiting for me, let me in. He introduced himself as Lieutenant Craig Graydon, the man I was there to meet.

Graydon heads up Kennesaw’s Criminal Investigations Division and keeps track of all the city’s crime statistics. He led me back to his dark office, where a computer glowed with a screen saver of the cast of the old Untouchables TV show, starring Robert Stack as federal agent Eliot Ness. Graydon’s great-grandfather and father were both in law enforcement. “I’ve been around weapons of all kinds for as long as I can remember,” he said.

Kennesaw is proud of its gun law. “Inmates have been picked up on other charges around the area, and they’ve said, ‘No, I would never break in a house in Kennesaw,’” Graydon said. City officials tout that a year after the law was implemented, burglaries in Kennesaw dropped by more than half; by 1985 they were down by 80 percent. “It was a selling point for the town,” according to David McDowall, a criminologist at the University at Albany, S.U.N.Y. The lavish media attention that the law received probably helps: it’s not just that Kennesaw residents have guns; it’s that everyone knows Kennesaw residents have guns. (That said, the rule has never been enforced, and Graydon estimates that only about half of Kennesaw’s residents actually own firearms.)

But while burglary numbers did drastically decline in Kennesaw after 1981, those statistics can be misleading. McDowall took a closer look at the numbers and noticed that 1981 was an anomaly—there were 75 percent more burglaries that year than there were, on average, in the previous five years. It is no surprise that the subsequent years looked great by comparison. McDowall studied before-and-after burglary numbers using 1978, 1979 or 1980 as starting points instead of 1981 and, as he reported in a 1989 paper, the purported crime drop disappeared. Kennesaw has always had pretty minimal crime, which may have more to do with the residents and location than how many guns it has.

But the sense I got in Kennesaw—which feels like a typical small city, not some gun-frenzied town—is that data don’t matter to a lot of people. It was similar in other places I visited. What matters more is apparent logic: guns stop criminals, so they keep people safer. The night before I met Graydon, I attended a lecture by a Second Amendment lawyer in Stone Mountain, Ga., 30 miles southeast of Kennesaw. At one point, the lawyer mentioned Samuel Colt, who popularized the revolver in the mid-19th century. “I haven’t seen the statistics, but I’ve got to assume that the instances of rape and strong-arm robberies plummeted when those became widespread,” he said. Numbers and statistics, in other words, were almost unnecessary—everyone just knows that where there are more guns, there is less crime.

But what does the research say? By far the most famous series of studies on this issue were conducted in the late 1980s and 1990s by Arthur Kellermann, now dean of the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and his colleagues. In one, published in 1993 in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the CDC, he and his colleagues identified 444 people who had been killed between 1987 and 1992 at home in three U.S. regions—Shelby County, Tennessee, King County, Washington State, and Cuyahoga County, Ohio—and then collected details about them and their deaths from local police, medical examiners and people who had been close to the victims. They found that a gun in the home was associated with a nearly threefold increase in the odds that someone would be killed at home by a family member or intimate acquaintance.

Belief vs. numbers: Craig Graydon of the Kennesaw police says criminals may be afraid to break into houses in his city, but an analysis of crime rates does not link a decrease to the firearms law. Credit: Ben Rollins

These findings directly contradict the rationale I kept hearing in Georgia, and that could be because human behavior is a lot messier than simple logic predicts. Researchers posit that even if keeping a gun at home does thwart the odd break-in, it may also change the gun owner’s behavior in ways that put that person and his or her family more at risk. “The fact that you have a gun may mean that you do things you shouldn’t be doing: you take chances you shouldn’t otherwise take; you go to places where it’s really not safe but you feel safe,” says David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. This added risk may overpower any protective effects.

There’s also the fact that where there are more guns, more opportunities exist for people to steal them and use them nefariously. Indeed, one of Kennesaw’s crime problems, Graydon told me, is gun theft, so the Kennesaw Police Department encourages residents to lock their guns up. The NRA, on the other hand, opposes legislation that requires secure gun storage.

The initial work by Kellermann and his colleagues was criticized for not using enough statistical controls. So they went on to publish other studies confirming the link between guns and more violence. In one, they found that a gun in the home was tied to a nearly fivefold increase in the odds of suicide. (More Americans die from gun suicides every year than gun homicides.) In another, published in 1998, they reported that guns at home were four times more likely to cause an accidental shooting, seven times more likely to be used in assault or homicide, and 11 times more likely to be used in a suicide than they were to be used for self-defense.

The research made headlines in the New York Times and the Washington Post. It also infuriated the gun lobby, which launched a war against gun research that persists today.

One veteran of that war is injury researcher Mark Rosenberg. I drove to Rosenberg’s Atlanta-area home—only 15 miles from where I lived as a child—after leaving the Kennesaw Police Department, and we sat down in his living room. In the late 1990s Rosenberg was the director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which then funded and studied gun violence. He said he was fired from the agency in 1999 for pushing ahead with this research despite political opposition, although his boss at the time, whom I contacted, disagreed that Rosenberg’s actions on gun research caused his dismissal.

Crime stoppers? Mike Watkins, a firearms instructor in Georgia, argues that “if I’m a bad guy, and I know that this place has guns, it’s not a place I’m obviously going to want to go.” Credit: Ben Rollins

I asked Rosenberg what happened after the Kellermann studies came out. “The NRA started a multipronged attack on us,” he recounted. “They called the CDC a cesspool of junk science.” Indeed, soon after Kellermann’s early studies were published, the NRA ran an article in its official journal, the American Rifleman, encouraging readers to protest the CDC’s use of tax dollars to “conduct anti-gun pseudo-scientific studies disguised as research.” The association also asked the National Institute of Health’s Office of Scientific Integrity to investigate Kellermann and his colleagues, but it declined. Todd Adkins, current director of research and information at the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, told me via e-mail that the association was reacting because CDC scientists had started a campaign to persuade Americans that firearms are a menace to public health and ignored data that did not support this idea.

As the dispute continued, Representative Jay Dickey of Arkansas introduced a rider into the CDC’s 1996 spending bill mandating that none of its funding be used to advocate or promote gun control. Congress also cut out $2.6 million of the CDC’s budget, the exact amount that had been allocated for firearm research the previous year. (Later, that funding was restored but was earmarked for traumatic brain injury.) Harvard’s Hemenway says that the move “was a shot across the bow: ‘We’re watching you.’” He adds that “the CDC recognized that they better be really, really, really, really careful about guns if they wanted to have an Injury Center.”

Dickey’s addition to the CDC’s funding bill has been renewed every year since. In fact, in 2011 the language was extended to cover all Department of Health and Human Services agencies, including the NIH. But Dickey later said that he did not intend to put a stop to all gun research—and he wished that he hadn’t. He died this past April.

Credit: Jen Christiansen; Sources: “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun,” by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, in Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol 86, No. 1; Fall 1995; “The Epidemiology of Self-Defense Gun Use: Evidence from the National Crime Victimization Surveys 2007–2011,” by David Hemenway and Sara J. Solnick, in Preventive Medicine, Vol. 79; October 2015; “Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home,” by Arthur L. Kellermann et al., in Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, Vol 45, No. 2; August 1998

The CDC’s hands are still tied. After the 2012 school shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama signed an executive order requesting that the CDC spend $10 million on gun violence research. But Congress did not appropriate the funds. In fact, according to Linda DeGutis, who directed the CDC’s Injury Center from 2010 to 2014, agency employees weren’t even allowed to discuss Newtown. “We couldn’t talk to the media except on background. We couldn’t be quoted on anything,” she recalls. “There were CDC staff members who wouldn’t even mention the word ‘gun.’” (Current staffers declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Garen Wintemute, a physician and noted gun violence researcher at the University of California, Davis, is not terribly surprised that everything went down the way it did. “It’s like doing work in any other controversial field that threatens established interests. Those interests respond in a way to minimize the threat,” he says. Rosenberg, after leaving the CDC, became CEO of a nonprofit that works to improve health in developing countries (he retired from that role last year). But Wintemute and others have continued with gun research, procuring grants from private foundations and government agencies such as the National Institute of Justice. In 2005 Wintemute started using his own private money to fund his research and has spent about $1.7 million so far.

More than 30 peer-reviewed studies, focusing on individuals as well as populations, have been published that confirm what Kellermann’s studies suggested: that guns are associated with an increased risk for violence and homicide. “There is really uniform data to support the statement that access to firearms is associated with an increased risk of firearm-related death and injury,” Wintemute concludes. Gun advocates argue the causes are reversed: surges in violent crime lead people to buy guns, and weapons do not create the surge. But if that were true, gun purchases would increase in tandem with all kinds of violence. In reality, they do not.

When I asked people I met on my trip to Georgia for their thoughts on how guns influence violence, many said they couldn’t believe that guns were a root cause. “It’s easier to go after the object than it is to go after the motive,” Graydon told me. He does have a point: A growing body of research suggests that violence is a contagious behavior that exists independent of weapon or means. In this framework, guns are accessories to infectious violence rather than fountainheads. But this does not mean guns don’t matter. Guns intensify violent encounters, upping the stakes and worsening the outcomes—which explains why there are more deaths and life-threatening injuries where firearms are common. Violence may be primarily triggered by other violence, but these deadly weapons make all this violence worse.

Home on the range near Kennesaw. In a recent survey of American gun owners, 88 percent said they bought handguns for self-defense, and many thought they could be targets of violent crime. Credit: Ben Rollins

My next stop, Scottsboro, Alabama, is within a county where nearly one in every five people has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Overall in Alabama, an estimated 12 percent of residents have permission to carry concealed firearms, possibly the highest such rate in the country. Jackson County, home to Scottsboro, ranks close to the top of the state with that nearly one-in-five figure. I wanted to know if people in this sleepy town just north of the Tennessee River commonly used these hidden guns to thwart crime.

I left Rosenberg’s home and drove 120 miles northwest. I drove past an Econo Lodge, a No. 1 China Buffet and a CashMart and then parked at the Jackson County courthouse, an impressive Neoclassical brick building with a clock tower. Scottsboro gained notoriety in 1931, when eight black youths were sentenced to death in its courthouse by an all-white jury after being falsely accused of raping two white women, a decision that was appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court. After passing through the metal detectors, I meandered around in search of the sheriff’s office, which I eventually found at the back of the ground floor. A receptionist walked me in to meet Sheriff Chuck Phillips, who was sitting at his desk with his chief deputy, Rocky Harnen. A sheet entitled “Handgun Fundamentals” hung on the wall behind the desk.

“I promise you, everybody here that wants a gun has got one or 100,” Phillips told me, drawling out the number so it sounded like “hunnerd.” I asked how many times Scottsboro residents had used their guns to protect themselves. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and I just can’t recall one,” the sheriff answered. Harnen, though, suddenly remembered something. “We did have a lady that was in one of our firearms classes. She had a guy try to break into her house,” he recalled. “She yelled and said, ‘I’ve got a gun,’ and she opened the door, and he was running away—she fired at him.”

But they could not think of any other examples. Graydon, back in Kennesaw, also could not remember a time when a resident used a gun in self-defense, and he has been working for the police department for 31 years.

The frequency of self-defense gun use rests at the heart of the controversy over how guns affect our country. Progun enthusiasts argue that it happens all the time. In 1995 Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University, and his colleague Marc Gertz published a study that elicited what has become one of the gun lobby’s favorite numbers. They randomly surveyed 5,000 Americans and asked if they, or another member of the household, had used a gun for self-protection in the past year. A little more than 1 percent of the participants answered yes, and when Kleck and Gertz extrapolated their results, they concluded that Americans use guns for self-defense as many as 2.5 million times a year.

This estimate is, however, vastly higher than numbers from government surveys, such as the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which is conducted in tens of thousands of households. It suggests that victims use guns for self-defense only 65,000 times a year. In 2015 Hemenway and his colleagues studied five years’ worth of NCVS data and concluded that guns are used for self-defense in less than 1 percent of all crimes that occur in the presence of a victim. They also found that self-defense gun use is about as effective as other defensive maneuvers, such as calling for help. “It’s not as if you look at the data, and it says people who defend themselves with a gun are much less likely to be injured,” says Philip Cook, an economist at Duke University, who has been studying guns since the 1970s.

Kleck and Getz’s survey and the NCVS differ in important ways that could help explain the discrepancy between them. The NCVS first establishes that someone has been the victim of an attack before asking about self-defense gun use, which weeds out yes answers from people who might, say, wave their gun around during a bar fight and call it self-defense. Kleck and Getz’s survey could overestimate self-defense use by including such ambiguous uses. Kleck counters that the NCVS might underestimate self-defense because people who do not trust government surveyors will be afraid to admit that they used their gun. Yet people who participate in the NCVS are told at the start that they are protected under federal law and that their responses will remain anonymous.

Credit: Jen Christiansen; Sources: “Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns,” by John R. Lott, Jr., and David B. Mustard, in Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1; January 1997; “Right-to-Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a State-Level Synthetic Controls Analysis,” by John J. Donohue, Abhay Aneja and Kyle D. Weber. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 23510. June 2017; “Shooting Down the ‘More Guns, Less Crime’ Hypothesis,” by Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue III, in Stanford Law Review, Vol. 55; April 2003

A closer look at the who, what, where and why of gun violence also sheds some light on the self-defense claim. Most Americans with concealed carry permits are white men living in rural areas, yet it is young black men in urban areas who disproportionately encounter violence. Violent crimes are also geographically concentrated: Between 1980 and 2008, half of all of Boston’s gun violence occurred on only 3 percent of the city’s streets and intersections. And in Seattle, over a 14-year-period, every single juvenile crime incident took place on less than 5 percent of street segments. In other words, most people carrying guns have only a small chance of encountering situations in which they could use them for self-defense.

Yet these numbers don’t resonate with many gun owners. “Absolutely, owning a firearm makes you safer,” Phillips told me. Watkins opined that “by having a gun, it gives you the opportunity to refuse to be a victim.” (Watkins, who used to be a cop in upstate New York, did later concede that guns are rarely shot in self-defense, even by law enforcement.) In a June 2017 study, researchers surveyed American gun owners about why they owned handguns, reporting that 88 percent bought them for self-defense; many felt they were likely to become targets of violent crime at some point. This belief is so pervasive that companies have even started selling self-defense insurance. At the lecture I attended in Stone Mountain, a representative of Texas Law Shield, a firearms legal defense program, tried to get me to sign up for a service that would provide free legal representation in the event that I ever shot someone to protect myself. “You don’t need it till you need it, but when you need it, you daggone sure glad you got it,” he said.

But even as the belief that we are all future crime targets has taken hold, violent crime rates have actually dropped in the U.S. in recent decades. According to the FBI, rates were a whopping 41 percent lower in 2015 than they were in 1996. The NRA attributes this decrease to the acquisition of more guns. But that is misleading. What has increased is the number of people who own multiple guns—the actual number of people and households who own them has substantially dropped.

Recently researchers have tried to assess the value of self-defense gun use by studying “stand your ground” laws, which gained notoriety after teenager Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012. These laws allow people to kill in self-defense when they feel they are in danger. Progun groups argue that they should deter crime because criminals will know that victims have no reason not to fight back. But a January 2017 study reported that when “stand your ground” was passed in Florida, the monthly homicide rate went up by nearly a quarter. And a 2012 study found that states that adopted these laws experienced an abrupt and sustained 8 percent increase in homicides relative to other states. Mark Hoekstra, a co-author of the 2012 paper and an economist at Texas A&M University, put it this way: “We found that making it easier to kill people resulted in more dead people.”

But some argue that even an unused gun can thwart crime. The logic here is that in areas with high rates of concealed carrying, criminals don’t want to victimize people who might have guns, so they don’t commit violent crimes. The most famous study, published in 1997 by John R. Lott, Jr., then a research fellow at the University of Chicago, and David B. Mustard, an economist now at the University of Georgia, looked at county crime rates in several states that had passed laws making it easy to get gun permits at various times prior to 1992. They compared such rates to crime levels in places that did not have easy access to guns during that period. Their hypothesis: when areas make it easier for people to get permits, more people will get guns and start carrying—and then violence will drop. Lott and Mustard developed a model, based on this comparison, that indicated that when it was easier to get permits, assaults fell by 5 percent, rapes by 7 percent and murders by 7.65 percent. Lott went on to publish a book in 1998 called More Guns, Less Crime, which tracked concealed carry laws and crime in more than 3,000 counties and reported similar findings.

Many other researchers have come to opposite conclusions. John Donohue, an economist at Stanford University, reported in a working paper in June 2017 that when states ease permit requirements, most violent crime rates increase and keep getting worse. A decade after laws relax, violent crime rates are 13 to 15 percent higher than they were before. And in 2004 the National Research Council, which provides independent advice on scientific issues, turned its attention to firearm research, including Lott’s findings. It asked 15 scholars to reanalyze Lott’s data because “there was such a conflict in the field about the findings,” recalls panel chair and criminologist Charles Wellford, now a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. Lott’s models, they found, could be tweaked in tiny ways to produce big changes in results. “The analyses that we did, and that others have done, show that these estimates are very fragile,” Wellford explains. “The committee, with one exception, concluded that you could not accept his conclusion that more guns meant less crime.” Wintemute summarized it this way: “There are a few studies that suggest that liberalizing access to concealed firearms has, on balance, beneficial effects. There are a far larger number of studies that suggest that it has, on balance, detrimental effects.”

Off Target: This progun shirt, along with bumper stickers advocating that guns protect good people from crime, reflect a sentiment undercut by dozens of studies showing firearms are poor deterrents. Credit: Ben Rollins

Lott, who now runs the nonprofit Crime Prevention Research Center, says the panel was biased and “set up to try to go against my work.” The NRA takes a related tack: it says research highlighting the danger of weapons is part of a gun-control agenda to confiscate firearms.

It is crucial, though, to distinguish the leadership of progun organizations from their constituents, who often have more nuanced opinions. “I do own a firearm, I’m licensed, I’m actually able to train others in using a firearm—and my goal in life is to never, ever, ever have to use it,” says Tina Monaghan, a city clerk in Nelson, Ga. (In 2013 Nelson, like Kennesaw, passed a law mandating that residents own guns, but the ordinance was relaxed later that year in response to a lawsuit.) According to a 2015 survey published by Johns Hopkins University researchers, 85 percent of gun owners support background checks for all gun sales, including sales through unlicensed dealers—even though the NRA strongly opposes them.

I heard a lot more about divergence from NRA positions on my last stop in Alabama: Scottsboro Gun and Pawn, a shop perched at the end of Broad Street, one of the town’s main drags. The co-owner, Robert Shook, told me about the ongoing push in the Alabama State Senate to eliminate concealed carry permits altogether, a move that would make it legal for anyone older than 18 to carry a hidden gun. (The bill passed in the Alabama Senate in April of this year but did not come up for a vote in the state’s House of Representatives during the 2017 session.) “There’s a lot of stuff that the NRA does that I don’t agree with,” he said, standing behind a glass case filled with handguns. “They’ve gone farther right than the other side left. They’re throwing common sense out the window.” Indeed, the NRA of today is actually more extreme than the organization used to be. In the 1930s NRA president Karl Frederick testified in Congress in support of the National Firearms Act, which restricted concealed carrying. “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns,” Frederick said.

The belief that more guns lead to fewer crimes is founded on the idea that guns are dangerous when bad guys have them, so we should get more guns into the hands of good guys. Yet Cook, the Duke economist, says this good guy/bad guy dichotomy is a false and dangerous one. Even upstanding American citizens are only human—they can “lose their temper, or exercise poor judgment, or misinterpret a situation, or have a few drinks,” he explains, and if they’re carrying guns when they do, bad things can ensue. In 2013 in Ionia, Mich., a road rage incident led two drivers—both concealed carry permit holders—to get out of their cars, take out their guns and kill each other.

As I drove from Scottsboro to Atlanta to catch my flight home, I kept turning over what I had seen and learned. Although we do not yet know exactly how guns affect us, the notion that more guns lead to less crime is almost certainly incorrect. The research on guns is not uniform, and we could certainly use more of it. But when all but a few studies point in the same direction, we can feel confident that the arrow is aiming at the truth—which is, in this case, that guns do not inhibit crime and violence but instead make it worse.

The popular gun-advocacy bumper sticker says that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”—and it is, in fact, true. People, all of us, lead complicated lives, misinterpret situations, get angry, make mistakes. And when a mistake involves pulling a trigger, the damage can’t be undone. Unlike my Glock-aided attack on the zombie at the gun range, life is not target practice.

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