The Truth About Guns


The Truth About Guns


Leonard Zwelling

It is said by the pro-gun advocates that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” That’s not exactly right.

As recent events have shown it is people with guns that kill people.

An elderly man in Missouri shot and severely wounded a young black teenager who accidentally knocked on the man’s door looking for his siblings.

Cops recently killed a homeowner who arrived at his door holding a gun after the police knocked. The police shot him dead.

A man in upstate New York fired at a car that had backed into his driveway to turn around after having gotten lost. A young woman was killed.

And today it was reported that a man fired at a cheerleader who accidentally got into the wrong car. She was killed.

And how many countless episodes of police killing people for a host of reasons, sometimes because they drew their weapons and sometimes because the victim drew his. Either way, there are just too many guns. In fact, there are more guns in America than there are people and furthermore these guns are owned by a minority of individuals in the country. The fire power of America is concentrated in the hands of a minority.

The point is that we all are human and we all make mistakes. Mistakes like this shouldn’t be paid for by people’s lives and that wouldn’t be the case if all of these people did not have guns. As far as I can tell, none of these shooters in the incidents above was psychologically unstable. They were probably startled or frightened and had access to a lethal weapon and used it unwisely.

I have recently heard a great deal about violence intervention programs that seek to address the underlying issues that lead to crime and gun violence. I am all for the social science approach to the problem of violent crime, but none of the examples above had anything to do with actual criminal activity. Guns are the go-to solution to far too many problems from domestic violence, to mental illness, to legitimate disputes, to police intervention.

This violence is unique to the United States. Israel, Japan, and western Europe do not have the gun violence problem of the USA.

I have been described as having the personality of a cop. That made me ego-syntonic with my prior job as the head of research oversight at MD Anderson. I believed that there are rules and that they be applied to everyone. In my professional life they were the rules governing human subjects research, animal care and use, biosafety, research integrity, and conflicts of interest. Thus, while I am sympathetic to the social engineering approach to gun violence, I prefer a simpler solution.

To own a gun, any gun, you must be trained in its use, pass an appropriate test, be finger-printed, and have a license that must be renewed annually. Furthermore, large capacity magazines, assault-style rifles, and purchases over the internet must be banned. Everyone who purchases a gun after obtaining the training and the license must undergo a criminal and psychological background check even if the gun was purchased at a gun show.

These simple steps plus a nationwide mandatory buy-back of any assault rifles currently owned must be initiated as soon as possible.

Now I know fully well that none of these things will be done. I also know that mass shootings will go on as long as young men (it’s usually young men) can get their hands on lethal force that often overpowers that of the police who respond when the shooting starts.

Yes, there should be metal detectors at the doors of all public buildings including schools. Private schools, too. Armed guards should be patrolling the halls of every school until this epidemic of violence ceases and parents can feel safe sending their kids to school. My son is worried about his two kids attending a public school in Sugar Land. That’s sad.

If a disease was killing our young people with the alacrity with which guns do, we would be screaming for the CDC to do something. Well, Congress can do it now. Put these measures in place using cop-like laws while the social scientists are using green tea, crystals, and meditation to fight gun violence. These approaches are not mutually exclusive.

People with guns kill people. People without guns kill fewer.


Addendum: The cheerleader shot in Texas was not killed. I regret the error.



Dr. Zwelling’s new novel, Conflict of Interest: Money Drives Medicine and People Die is available at:,

on amazon if you search using the title and subtitle, and

directly from the publisher Dorrance at:

4 thoughts on “The Truth About Guns”

  1. Question. Wasn’t the cheerleader who was shot in Elgin, TX in ICU?

    Also, agree wholeheartedly with all your suggestions for gun related legislation. I would include outlawing gun shows. They provide a perfect place for those unable to purchase guns legally to get their hands on one.

    1. Leonard Zwelling

      Yes. You are right about the cheerleader. My bad. Probably cannot outlaw gun shows under First and Second Amendment. But we can mandate background checks for all sales.

  2. Evil and crazy people have been with society for centuries. When they acted out, they used a dagger, a club, or a low-velocity weapon. Assault rifles have magnified the killing power and wounding exponentially.
    Let’s follow your suggestions and also tax ALL owned weapons just as we do any property, car, purchase or income.
    Since gun violence causes HUGE healthcare costs, let’s tax guns and bullets at a HIGH tax for purchase and annually, e.g. $3800 for purchase, $25 per bullet, and $1000 yearly for each owned assault rifle or pistol. These fees are similar to belonging to any private club. Actually they are less. Tax may drive change.
    And, have a Federal buyback program: $5k per high-velocity rifle or pistol. No money, no mission for change.

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