With the debate over gun control headed to the Senate Judiciary Committee today, it’s worth recalling that the NRA has successfully gutted the government’s ability to sponsor research into the actual effects that guns have on public health. Before the President’s executive actions changed the policy several weeks ago, the centres for Disease and Control has not allowed to pursue many kinds of gun research due to the lobbying strength of the National Rifle Association.
Governmental research into gun mortality shrunk by 96 per cent since the mid-1990s, according to Reuters.
Prior to 1996, the centre for Disease Control funded research into the causes of firearm-related deaths. After a series of articles finding that increased prevalence of guns lead to increased incidents of gun violence, Republicans sought to remove all federal funding for research into gun deaths. In 1996, Republican Rep. Jay Dickey removed $2.6 million from the CDC budget — the precise amount the CDC spent on gun research in 1995 — at a time when the centre was conducting more studies into gun-related deaths as a “public health phenomenon,” according to The New York Times.
Here’s an excerpt of a 1997 article in Reason about the fight to kill gun science:
Since 1985 the CDC has funded scores of firearm studies, all reaching conclusions that favour stricter gun control. But CDC officials insist they are not pursuing an anti-gun agenda. In a 1996 interview with the Times-Picayune, CDC spokeswoman Mary Fenley adamantly denied that the agency is “trying to eliminate guns.”
At the behest of the NRA, Congressional Republicans successfully removed all federal funding to the centre for Disease Control that would have gone into researching the effect of guns and the root causes of gun violence.
That funding was eventually reinstated, but has been decreasing since, and eventually the CDC re-designated the money to conduct research on traumatic brain injuries.
Because of the NRA’s successful campaign to eliminate the scientific research into the public health effect of firearms, very few researchers specialize in the field anymore, University of California Davis Professor Garen Wintemute told Reuters. He said there isn’t enough money to sustain research.
Since there is a lack of funding for independent research, the gun debate has been lacking in unimpeachable statistics that could effect a change in the status quo, and that plays directly into the hands of people opposed to changes to make gun laws more comprehensive.
Even today, the NRA is pushing flawed statistics that are a direct result of this de-funding. Today, they’ll cite centre for Disease Control fatal injury report statistics over several decades. The issue here is that the CDC explicitly says that fatal injury reports data from 1999 onward cannot be compared to years prior, because the way the CDC was forced to research incidents of firearms deaths changed drastically after the 1996 de-funding.
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