Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2013
Research into the causes of gun violence is critical to developing policies aimed at reducing this form of violence and making our communities safer. Only by understanding the causes of gun violence can we better address this public safety issue that results in the deaths of 30,000 Americans every year.
Attempts to suppress and obscure science are increasingly common features of many public policy battles – especially around tobacco, evolution, climate change, guns, and abortion. Legislators have forced doctors to tell patients falsehoods about their pregnancies and abortion and compelled teachers to mislead students about evolution. At the NRA’s behest, federal funds for gun violence research were eliminated, and basic data on gun violence cannot be gathered. Meanwhile, Big Tobacco and fossil fuel producers are the most prominent, but hardly the only, industries which have conspired to obscure research and attack researchers who reveal their products’ dangers. Across the board, science is being obfuscated, misinterpreted, and ignored in efforts to keep the facts out of the hands of the public.
In June, the Law Center’s Executive Director Robyn Thomas joined a panel of researchers from across disciplines at Netroots Nation to discuss the history of research on gun violence and ways in which that research has been blocked by the gun lobby’s efforts. Below are some of the interesting points outlined at the panel.
The History of Guns and Research
In 1992, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) was launched at the Centers for Disease Control, solely to do research on injury causation in America. Within it, the Division of Violence Prevention set out to investigate and address those injuries considered “intentional.”
Only a year later, the results of one of the first studies funded by CDC was published the New England Journal of Medicine. The article by Arthur Kellerman, et al, entitled “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home” found that keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide. The article concluded that rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increased risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.
Kellerman clearly stated that the studies weren’t intended as briefs for gun control, but simply to provide information to help people make rational, evidence-based decisions about whether to keep a weapon at home. The NRA was outraged by the results, and spent several years campaigning for the elimination of the NCIPC, finally succeeding in getting language included in 1996 in the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Bill to strip the NCIPC funding on gun injury research.
How the NRA Succeeded in Repressing Research on Gun Violence, The Dickey Amendment:
In 1996, at the behest of the NRA’s self-described “point person” Congressman Jay Dickey, the NRA simultaneously got language in the Appropriations bill stripping the CDC of their entire budget for firearm injury research ($2.6million) and included a provision explicitly forbidding any CDC funding “to advocate or promote gun control”.