Surprise, Surprise: The Gun Lobby Is Undermining Research Into The Cause And Prevention Of Gun Violence

shutterstock_4366687There is a very interesting Op-Ed piece in the New York Times today, about the necessity for research into the cause and prevention of gun violence. Did you know that Obama had to sign an executive order “to expand the federal reporting system on violent deaths to all 50 states, from the current 18?” I didn’t. The gun lobby has pretty much shut down government-funded research on gun violence for the past 17 years.

The research freeze began at a time when the C.D.C. was making strides in studying gun violence as a public health problem. Before that, the issue had been regarded mainly as a law enforcement challenge or as a problem of disparate acts by deranged offenders, an approach that remains in sync with the N.R.A. worldview.

Public health research emphasizes prevention of death, disability and injury. It focuses not only on the gun user, but on the gun, in much the same way that public health efforts to reduce motor vehicle deaths have long focused on both drivers and cars.

In other words, guns do kill people. We all know it. Can we start figuring out how to make their production and ownership safer for everyone, please?

To understand and prevent motor vehicle deaths, for instance, the government tracks more than 100 variables per fatal crash, including the make, model and year of the vehicles, the speed and speed limit, the location of passengers, seat belt use and air bag deployment.

Guns deaths do not get such scrutiny.

My question is, why? If you really believe that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” then why object to research that may, in fact, back up your claim? Is it because everyone knows that claim is ridiculous and when we start to mount evidence on how dangerous gun ownership actually is, guns will be as hard to get as, say, a driver’s licence?

Access Denied documents how for “the past decade or so: the federal government has conducted almost no scientific research on how criminals get and misuse guns, or what policies are effective at stopping them; law enforcement has been prohibited from sharing analyses of crime gun trace data with policymakers and the press; and military leaders and doctors have been barred from talking about gun safety to people under their command or care. All of this despite the fact that Americans murder each other with guns at nearly 20 times the rate of residents of other high-income countries.”

We research the safety of everything from soda consumption, to airbags, to the amount of time spent on public transit. It seems only natural that we should be researching the safety of firearms – especially when they are responsible for so many deaths every year. I’m afraid the argument may just be too logical for the gun lobby, though. Propaganda and ideology are much more useful than cold, hard facts.

(photo: Annemarie Young/

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