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Democrats Introduce Legislation To Restart CDC Funding For Gun Violence Research

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Two Congressional Democrats unveiled legislation this week that would restart the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s gun violence prevention research efforts.

In 1996, when a CDC-funded study showed that the risks of owning a firearm far outweighed the benefits, the gun lobby launched a massive campaign to defund the CDC’s budget for research on firearms injuries. Led by the NRA, along with their Republican allies in Congress, the lobbying effort successfully slashed government funding for gun safety research. Since then, governmental research into gun-related injuries and deaths has shrunk by more than 96 percent.

The result is that many basic questions about gun violence 2014 such as how many Americans are shot each year 2014 remain unanswered. That’s important, as public health experts rely on this type of information to develop effective solutions to prevent gun violence.

The new legislation, which was introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) in the House, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the Senate, would give the CDC $10 million a year “for the purpose of conducting or supporting research on firearms safety or gun violence prevention.”

“In America, gun violence kills twice as many children as cancer, and yet political grandstanding has halted funding for public health research to understand this crisis,” Maloney said in a statement.

Maloney, who co-sponsored the 1994 assault weapons ban, is a long-time gun safety advocate. Earlier this year, she and Markey encouraged President Obama to include CDC funding in his proposed 2015 budget, which he did.

Obama’s proposal has been opposed by key Republicans.

“The President’s request to fund propaganda for his gun-grabbing initiatives though the CDC will not be included in the FY2015 appropriations bill,” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that traditionally sets CDC funding, told ProPublica last month.

It seems Kingston may be a bit unclear about the meaning of propaganda, as scientific research doesn’t really fall into the category of ‘propaganda.’ What does fall into that category, however, is the systematic distribution of misleading and outright false information, which has been the gun lobby’s primary tactic for years now.

Gun violence is certainly a public health problem, so it only makes sense that we would study it like we do all other public health problems. The CDC sponsors a wide variety of disease and injury prevention programs, focusing on everything from HIV/AIDS to averting falls by elderly people. Since 2007, the CDC has spent less than $100,000 a year on firearms-focused work, according to a CDC spokeswoman. The money goes not for research but for a very rough, annual estimate of the number of Americans injured by shootings.

The National Rifle Association’s director of public affairs told CNN last year that more government-funded gun research is not needed.

“What works to reduce gun violence is to make sure that criminals are prosecuted and those who have been found to be a danger to themselves or others don’t have access to firearms,” Andrew Arulanandam said. “Not to carry out more studies.”

However, medical and public health experts don’t agree with the NRA.

(And, on a side note, the NRA logic about ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ used in Arulanandam’s argument against gun research is nothing more than a fallacy. If you don’t believe me, read this story by gun owner and gun safety advocate Frederic Poag. See, the problem with the NRA’s assertion is that everyone is a ‘good guy’ with a gun… until they’re not).

Professional groups that represent doctors, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, support the push for more research funding. In a letter last summer, the associations wrote that “the dearth of gun violence research has contributed to the lack of meaningful progress in reducing firearm injuries,” and noted that “firearm injuries are one of the top three causes of death among youth.” Strikingly, if current trends continue, guns will surpass car accidents as the leading cause of death among young people sometime during 2015.

More recently, the American College of Physicians (ACP) released a report calling gun violence a ‘public health threat’ requiring ‘immediate action.’ In their report, the ACP laid out nine strategies for reducing gun violence, urging us to treat gun violence as a public health problem rather than a partisan issue. Principal among ACP’s nine strategic imperatives is the recommendation to use scientific evidence — not rhetoric — to inform gun policy decisions.

A report last year from experts convened by the federally funded Institute of Medicine outlined the current priorities for research on reducing gun violence. These questions would help guide the development of effective solutions to prevent gun-related deaths and injuries. Among the questions that need answers, according to the report: How often do Americans successfully use guns to protect themselves each year? Could improved “smart gun” technologies reduce gun deaths and injuries, and will consumers be willing to adopt them? And would universal background checks reduce gun violence?

Oh, and one more question that remains unanswered: If, as the NRA and other pro-gun groups claim, guns are actually safe, why are they so opposed to researchers looking into it?

 

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