A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed, without doctor's orders.
A team from Duke University Medical Center said violent crime is on the increase – and handguns are used in as many as half of all shootings. They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and an automatic pistol or revolver often makes an all too available weapon.
The research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The researchers said there was no reason for handguns to be publicly available at all. They consulted police chiefs, and top sportsmen, from around the United States, and found such weapons have little practical value for self-defense and none whatsoever for hunting.
None of the sportsmen felt such guns were essential, since the point of a firearm is to hit a target at a distance with accuracy. Police officials concurred, arguing that short range weapons such as handguns are far more likely to be used in domestic assault than in prevention of crime.
The researchers said a long barreled hunting rifle or shotgun may just as easily ward off criminals in the event that police are unavailable for prompt response, due to its perceived size and greater deterrent effect.
In contrast, a so-called "cop killer" bullet, typically fired from an automatic pistol, pierces the body like "cutting into a ripe melon".
The use of handguns is particularly worrying among adolescents, say the researchers, reporting that 24% of school shootings have been carried out with such weapons, primarily high capacity automatic pistols.
The study found links between easy access to handguns and violent assault are long established.
French laws in the 17th century decreed that muskets of barrel length less than a cubit were prohibited from the realm. A century later, shotguns were introduced in the United Kingdom in an effort to reduce injuries during hunting expeditions. In the United States, so-called "gun control" has a turbulent history due to Constitutional concerns regarding the state of the militia.
The researchers say legislation to ban the sale of handguns would be a key step in the fight against violent crime.
The Department of Justice is actively looking for ways to reduce gun crime.
"We suggest that banning the sale of revolvers and automatic pistols is a sensible and practical measure that would have this effect."
A Justice Department spokesperson said there were already extensive restrictions in place to control the sale and possession of handguns, but that more controls are needed. "In most states and on Federal land the law already prohibits the possession of offensive weapons in a public place, and the possession of guns in public without good reason or lawful authority, with the exception of those carried for a legitimate law enforcement purpose," said Craig Talbot of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
"Offensive weapons are defined as any weapon designed or adapted to cause injury, or intended by the person possessing them to do so. An individual has to demonstrate that he had good reason to possess a gun, for example for hunting, other sporting purposes or as part of his profession (e.g. a police officer) in a public place."
"The manufacture, sale and importation of 17 high capacity and automatic pistols and other offensive weapons have been banned, in addition to automatic rifles and machine guns without a Federal permit."
A spokesperson for the National Association of District Attorneys said: "NADA supports any move to reduce the number of gun crimes, however, it is important to consider the practicalities of enforcing such changes."
Troubling on a number of levels. We've all heard of doctors playing God, but doctors playing Founding Father? What will they think of next?