It’s Now Legal For The CDC To Research Gun Statistics And Public Health

gun statistics

After the Newtown massacre in December, a number of graphs depicting gun statistics went viral, and a number of takedowns quickly emerged pointing to their inaccuracy. That’s probably due, in part, to the fact that there’s been a virtual ban on research of how gun violence impacts public health in the U.S. According to NBC, the NRA has effectively had a stranglehold on gun statistic research. That’s a story in and of itself, but today, the major headline is that Obama is clearing the way for scientific inquiry into how gun violence impacts our health (and giving researchers some funding, while he’s at it).

This isn’t to say that no one has ever done research on gun violence and public health; in the 80s and 90s, the CDC conducted original research (including studies that disproved the theory that people who have guns in their homes are better protected). But according to NBC News, the NRA, with help from supportive members of Congress, shut down funding for their research and stipulated that CDC funding can’t be used “to advocate or promote gun control.”

Stephen Teret, director for the Center for Law and the Public’s Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NBC that the “CDC overreacted to that statement and became more reluctant to fund anything dealing with guns, even the traditional epidemiological research, so there was a chilling effect.” Plus, the NRA actually attacked certain scientists and tried to discredit their work.

This is disturbing on ethical grounds, but in practical terms, it has likely cost the lives of many gun violence victims, too. Research on how things like gun violence impact public health often leads to successful prevention campaigns and policy change; NBC gives automobile deaths as an example of one threat that has waned in recent years thanks to research.

After Newtown, a number of graphs and images went viral depicting U.S. gun deaths. Their accuracy was debatable, but the events at Newtown made it hard to deny that the toll was and is too high. As a result, President Obama passed a memorandum today directing the CDC to put efforts back into coming up with more accurate information, and also called for Congress to contribute $10 million to the cause. He explained:

We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science from this epidemic of violence

We’d think that was a given, regardless of how you feel about gun laws. We hope it stays that way.

Photo: Slate/@GunDeaths interactive

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    • spencer60

      Such BS. How does the NRA have a strangle hold on research done by anyone? You really are confused on this subject.

      Congress specifically restricted the CDC after Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who was then director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, explained his aim was to make the public see firearms as “dirty, deadly—and banned”.

      This kind of politically driven ‘science’ is pure junk, and Congress actually saved the CDC by not allowing it to become a political tool of the gun control industry.

      • David Friedman

        Typical, hysterical, gun-worshiper response!
        I have heard numerous CDC officials interviewed on NPR regarding this obstruction to gun research. Simply search the NPR programing on CDC and guns. This is a prime example on how the NRA operates. ObamaCares!!

      • Mark Grismer

        The CDC has NEVER been prevented in doing gun research, only in doing Advocacy. The reason they were prevented from advocacy is because of the gun control agenda by Rosenberg, Kellerman and others who didn’t care about real data or real science and were only interested in outlawing THE GUN, because they were afraid of it. The research was flawed beyond measure. For instance, it only recorded actual “defensive shootings” as opposed to “defensive uses” of a firearm. Thus discarding the majority of defensive uses where the crime was deterred without a single shot being fired.

        Here’s an example of why the CDC got restricted:

        “Guns are a virus that must be eradicated.”—Dr. Katherine Christoffel, pediatrician, in American Medical News, January 3, 1994. In the 1990s Dr. Christoffel was the leader of the now-defunct HELP Network, a Chicago-based association of major medical organizations and grant seekers advancing gun control in the medical media. The name HELP was an acronym for Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan.

        “Data on [assault weapons’] risks are not needed, because they have no redeeming social value.—Jerome Kassirer, M.D., former editor, New England Journal of Medicine, writing in vol. 326, no. 17, page 1161 (April 23, 1992).

        “I hate guns and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to own one. If I had my way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns would be banned.”—Assistant Dean Deborah Prothrow-Stith, M.D., Harvard School of Public Health in her book Deadly Consequences.

    • David Friedman

      Now that objective, quantifiable, unbiased research will emerge regarding guns and their “utility” in America, great change will follow! Guns used in “defense” almost always injure or kill, rather than protect.
      The only rationale to own automatic weapons is for the far-right to “protect” itself from the government. That has NO PLACE in modern civilized American culture. We will stop that nonsense through research! ObamaCares!!