Before you can solve a problem, you must first understand it. Since 1996, gun lobbyists have made sure that hardly anyone ever studies gun violence data by eliminating research funding at America’s premiere public health agency. The gun lobby calls such research “illegitimate,” which is another way of admitting that they are actually opposed to any solutions for the problem of gun violence because they do not agree that it is a real problem. This is the same principle behind attempts to defund climate science: if you want to prevent solutions that you might not like, then you must introduce doubt, and that is always easier in the absence of data. Had they thought to do it in time, tobacco companies might very well have tried eliminating lung cancer research from the federal budget, too.
But now two Democrats are introducing legislation that would meet President Obama’s challenge after the Newtown shootings and restore $10 million in funding to the Centers for Disease Control for gun violence research, so the National Rifle Association is reacting in predictable fashion.
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 NRA’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.”
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.”
Republicans are of course very much opposed to the government funding any kind of data that might contradict the easy moral fable of the gun: that everyone will be safe as soon as everyone has more, bigger, and better armaments than their neighbors. Because as far as the gun lobby is concerned, the only gun problem in America is that we do not have enough of them.