A congressional ban on gun violence research backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been extended in the aftermath of the Charleston church shooting that left 9 people dead.
As Public Radio International (PRI) reported recently, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted to reject an amendment last month that would have allowed the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence.
The reasoning? “A gun is not a disease,” and therefore falls outside of the CDC’s research domain.
“The CDC is there to look at diseases that need to be dealt with to protect public health,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a press conference last week.
“I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease. Guns don’t kill people — people do. And when people use weapons in a horrible way, we should condemn the actions of the individual and not blame the action on some weapon.”
The fight over research on gun violence goes back a couple decades. In the 1990s, the CDC funded and backed gun violence research done by Dr. Fred Rivara, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of Washington at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He found that having a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide and suicide threefold.
The NRA later admonished the CDC for supporting Rivara’s findings. Rivera accused the organisation recently of working with Congress to try and stifle his and other future research on gun violence.
“[Our research] underwent peer review and was thought to be very solid and worthwhile research,” Rivara told PRI’s the Takeaway in April. “The CDC stood by our research — they had funded it and they stood by it. Unfortunately, it raised the attention of the National Rifle Association, who then worked with pro-gun members of Congress to essentially stop funding firearm research.”
Many CDC employees stopped researching gun violence out of fear they would lose their jobs.
“No federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency’s funding to find out” if any gun research could be done, Dr. Arthur Kellerman, Rivara’s colleague that also worked on the original research that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, said in a December 2012 article published in the journal.
It was “really chilling” for gun violence researchers to see the studies dry up, Rivara said.
“Gun deaths and gun injuries as a public health issue are still basically anathema to CDC researchers and anyone who gets CDC funding, which is potentially millions of dollars,” The Takeaway correspondent Todd Zwillich told PRI.
“Congressional prohibition, which was extended in this very vote that we’re talking about with that appropriations bill, prevents the CDC from advocating for any form of gun control.”
American taxpayers pay roughly $US12.8 million every day to cover the costs of gun-related deaths and injuries, according to a report released in April by Mother Jones on the cost of gun violence in America.
CDC data has indicated that guns will kill more Americans under 25 than cars in 2015, The Atlantic reported. More than 25% of teenagers ages 15 and older who die of injuries in the US are killed in gun-related incidents.
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