Friday is usually a quiet day when it comes to gun news, for that matter it’s usually a quiet day for all news, particularly as we enter the Holiday season and office parties usually trump any real work. But a news item out of DC caught my eye this morning and rocked me back on my heels. I am referring to the fact that CDC funding for gun violence research might actually survive the House budget negotiations and get into the bill.
What? A federal budget that actually contains money for CDC-funded research on guns? How is this possible in today’s political climate? How is it possible that one of the NRA’s most sacred totems, i.e., the defunding of gun research, could be overcome when every Republican Presidential candidate has followed Trump’s lead in calling for more, not less access to guns? Even the police unions and various chiefs are saying that we all need to be armed. And wasn’t it CDC-funded research back in the 90’s which found that the notion that guns can protect us just wasn’t true?
The NRA has been claiming that armed citizens prevent millions of crimes each year. And this claim, which has been repeated by right-wing think tanks and right-wing politicians again and again, is bandied about by gun-rights supporters hither and yon. If you want the latest and slickest version of this canard, just tune into Wayne-o mouthing the same bromide to all his video fans. And what is this entire claim based on? A telephone survey published in 1994 by Gary Kleck in which a few folks working for him allegedly spoke to 213 people who claimed they had used a gun to prevent a crime. If I had a nickel for every time this so-called research has been debunked, I wouldn’t have to work for a living, and even Kleck himself recently backed down from his own claim. But if serious researchers can’t get financial support to validate anything that Kleck said, it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not.
The problem with public health research is that, by definition, either it’s evidence-based or it doesn’t get published and read at all. Which means you need money to dig up and analyze the evidence before you can contribute to the debate at all. Which is exactly why the NRA managed to defund CDC gun research after 1996, and is exactly why the spurious claims made by Kleck and his followers have taken on a life of their own. Because as a country whose legal system rests on due process, the law in most jurisdictions requires that any legislation must first be debated in a public forum, which means you have to hear from both sides. And if one side presents arguments that are nothing more than opinions and marketing claptrap, while the other side can’t respond because they can’t conduct research to elucidate the facts, guess who wins the public debate?
This has been the sorry state of affairs for the past twenty years, and this is the state of affairs that might actually change in the budget negotiations on Capitol Hill. I have to assume, incidentally, that there’s some connection between the idea of refunding CDC-sponsored gun research and the spate of mass killings which appears now to be totally out of control. The good news for Trump, et. al., in the latest mass slaughter iteration was that the moment the shooters were linked to some kind of terrorist something, the fact they had acquired their guns and ammo legally just went by the board.
Here’s the bottom line, folks. Anyone who believes that 100,000+ gun deaths and injuries each year doesn’t constitute a public health issue can go lay brick. As for everyone else, here’s a link to a little app put online by Doctors for America that get you onto the phone to make a call to DC. Needs to be done today. Needs to be done now.