Guess What? With Your Help There’s A Chance That CDC-Funded Gun Research Might See The Light Of Day.

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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.

conference program pic              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.

There’s A Petition Out There You Really Should Sign.

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There’s a new petition in town that deserves your support.  It’s a project of the group called Doctors For America, whose founders back in 2008 included a guy named Vivek Murthy whom you might remember had some initial difficulties becoming Surgeon General because of another guy named Rand Paul. I’m playing a little tongue-in-cheek here because I can’t remember another politician who made as much of a jerk out of himself as Rand Paul did by temporarily blocking Murthy’s nomination because Murthy didn’t appreciate the virtues and benefits of guns.  After all, as a physician, why should Murthy or anyone else be concerned about 100,000 gun injuries and deaths every year? Oh hell, messed it up again; we know that it’s people who kill people, right?  When they use a gun to kill someone else it must have been to stop a crime.

cdc                Anyway, to return to reality, the DFA petition asks Congress to restore funding of gun research by the CDC.  Incidentally, for anyone who’s interested in numbers, what we are talking about is a whopping $3 million or less each year which is probably about what Congress spends on replacing worn-out parking meters in downtown DC.  In a funny way I suspect that one of the reasons the funding ban continues is precisely because it represents a budgetary item which hardly anyone can see, and therefore doesn’t attract enough attention to turn its annual defunding into a political fight.

When the NRA and its puppet Congressman Jay Dickey first pushed through the ban, the rationale they used was that the CDC was supporting not gun research per se, but gun-control advocacy which was not a proper way to use taxpayer’s funds.  Actually, it wasn’t the CDC that was doing the advocacy; rather, it was the GVP community that was utilizing the results of CDC-funded research to support its point of view.  Which shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone since what CDC-funded scholars were discovering was a rather remarkable state of affairs, namely, that guns were actually lethal weapons, a finding which came as a complete surprise to the NRA!

You have to understand something about the gun nuts who work at Waples Mill Road in Fairfax, VA.  Some of them, perhaps a majority of them actually believe that there’s no risk from guns.  Or to put it more exactly, if there is some kind of risk, it’s clearly outweighed by the benefits of owning a gun. Now when I joined the NRA back in 1955, owning a gun usually meant a rifle or shotgun which was used for hunting if you lived out in the country or for some kind of sport shooting if you lived closer to town. My father had one friend who owned a handgun, but it was a slightly-rusted Colt pistol that he brought back from World War II. But this began changing in the 1980s when hunting and sport shooting began to disappear and the gun industry recalibrated its products by launching an all-out campaign to sell handguns as a necessary response to crime.  The research that supported the notion that guns make us safe was so shabby that it would never have been published had it been funded by the CDC.

Over the nearly twenty years since the CDC ban went into effect, private funding sources have continued to support gun research and the evidence continues to mount that guns represent a risk that far outweighs the benefits of ownership, whether the gun industry agrees or not.  But most people who support the efforts of the GVP community really don’t need more evidence to convince them of what they already know.  Because what they know is that when you pick up a loaded gun and pull the trigger, someone in the way of that bullet is going to get badly hurt. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a good guy or a bad guy; gun violence is a national shame that can’t be ignored.  Sign the petition. Sign it now.

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