Gun lobby has opposed research on effects of gun ownership/gun laws

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Last week, after giving myself an initial overview of the scientific research on how gun ownership and gun laws affect violent crime, I told you that it seems like there's not a solid consensus on this issue. At least not in the United States. Different studies, of different laws, in different places seem to produce a wide variety of results.

On the one hand, this is kind of to be expected with social science. People are hard to pin down. Harder, often, than the Higgs Boson particle. And you can't just do a clean, controlled laboratory study of these issues. Instead, you're left trying to compare specific places, laws, and enforcement techniques that may not be easily comparable, in an attempt to draw a broad conclusion. That's hard.

But, it seems, the National Rifle Association has gone out of its way to make this work even more difficult than it would otherwise be. Since the early 1990s, NRA-backed politicians have attacked firearms research they believe is biased against guns. Alex Seitz-Wald at wrote a piece on this back in July, after an earlier mass shooting. He describes how a vaguely worded clause has lead researchers to avoid doing firearms studies at all, for fear of losing their funding.

The Centers for Disease Control funds research into the causes of death in the United States, including firearms — or at least it used to. In 1996, after various studies funded by the agency found that guns can be dangerous, the gun lobby mobilized to punish the agency. First, Republicans tried to eliminate entirely the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the bureau responsible for the research. When that failed, Rep. Jay Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas, successfully pushed through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget (the amount it had spent on gun research in the previous year) and outlawed research on gun control with a provision that reads: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

Dickey’s clause, which remains in effect today, has had a chilling effect on all scientific research into gun safety, as gun rights advocates view “advocacy” as any research that notices that guns are dangerous. Stephen Teret, who co-directs the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told Salon: “They sent a message and the message was heard loud and clear. People [at the CDC], then and now, know that if they start going down that road, their budget is going to be vulnerable. And the way public agencies work, they know how this works and they’re not going to stick their necks out.”

In January, the New York Times reported that the CDC goes so far as to “ask researchers it finances to give it a heads-up anytime they are publishing studies that have anything to do with firearms. The agency, in turn, relays this information to the NRA as a courtesy.”

Read the rest

Via Dave Ng

Image: IMG_0362, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from neontommy's photostream


  1. This was the first thought I had when I read your previous post. If you’re surprised by this, you’ve been politically living under a rock for the last forty years.

    I’ll believe in the new progressive era when there’s an effective left-wing counter to the NRA. Right now, the dems are so cowed that the president refuses to even address the possibility. Bipartisanship fuck yeah!

  2. We have strict gun controls in New Zealand so we beat each other to death with our fists instead . Us Consumanbeings . We’ll find a way .  Strip out the Humanity in the collective Us and the possibilities are endless .

    1. We have strict gun controls in New Zealand so we beat each other to death with our fists instead.

      And when was the last time a Kiwi beat a couple of dozen people to death in one go?

          1. Yeah I’m just looking for detail since that unsourced stat is pretty broad as it’s presented. I’m not saying I don’t believe it, I’d just like a slightly clearer picture. 

        1. evildrian is right. New Zealand isn’t the pleasant land of beaches, mountains and sheep people have been led to believe. It’s a bloody rampage. The vast majority the population is murdered by fighting fists of fury.

          1. Did I say any of this stuff? Or did I just ask for more illustrative detail? 

            I think it’s a fair question. I’m not trying to be cheeky I’m genuinely curious and his statement is pretty bare. 

  3. It’s easy to be cynical, but the real takeaway here is that there’s something we can do in the next election cycle about it: ask our running politiicians if they’re interested in stripping away the Dickey clause — the clause that outlaws research on guns.

    1. I’d like to, but since one of my local legislators* is still in office in spite of being arrested with a loaded gun in his car while driving drunk I won’t hold my breath waiting for a response.

      *Curry Todd, Tennessee. The silver lining to this cloud is it cast such a pall over his bill to allow people to carry concealed weapons in bars and restaurants that the measure never came up for a vote.

        1. Actually what’s even worse is the claim he and other legislators made in defense of the legislation. According to their reasoning it would make restaurants and bars safer because if a deranged shooter came in patrons would be able to defend themselves. And of course no innocent bystanders would be harmed in the ensuing firefight.

      1.  Then you’ve got work to do on the people in your community first and foremost. The bright side of that is that there’s nothing stopping you from inviting a pile of likely voters (or conservative relatives, or whatever) over for a Bar-B-Que in your backyard or something TODAY. If they can start to understand you, and you them, there’s a chance for change there!

  4. Of course the gun lobby is going to go absolutely bonkers with a government funded CDC research study on the “health effects” of guns, especially when it was initially proposed just prior to a sweeping healthcare reform bill being passed.

    The fear was that you could technically declare guns a “health hazard” and approach gun control that way, which isn’t really that outlandish of a concern on their part.

    Speaking of Sociology however, what I find more interesting to examine is the fact that the shooter was apparently home-schooled and attended church regularly. Which happens to be the two exact things that the religious right cling to. Ie. Removing their children from the Public School system because of “Indoctrination” and the lack of “God’s word” in the curriculum.

    If the CDC really wants to do research, perhaps they could start with how poorly equipped this country is in terms of dealing with mental health. Which has been a commonality among most of the shooters, being that most of them had early signs of failing mental health.

  5. Another thing the NRA opposes is legislation requiring better safeties on firearms.

    You’d think that the bloody-handed gun nuts and the dirty facists who want to disarm everyone would be able to come together on one of these simple premises:  It should be harder to accidentally shoot someone or Requiring safety mechanisms more sophisticated and effective than those of a hundred years ago wouldn’t be overly burdensome to gun buyers.  Maybe they could even agree that it should be impossible for anyone but a gun’s owner to fire it – this is the 21st century, we do have some technology available.

    But it’s like occutards and teabaggers, you know?  If they’d work together they might get something done about corruption in government.  But I guess activists often hate each other more than they hate the things they are supposedly fighting against.

    I remember how the auto industry fought tooth and nail against seat belt legislation.  We didn’t let Detroit get away with that nonsense, why do we let the gun industry continue to use safeties that haven’t significantly advanced since the 19th century?  I think it’s because We The People are too busy fighting the NRA .vs Brady Foundation wars to get anything useful done.

      1. Can you explain to me why you didn’t object to disgraceful epithets directed at three other groups in the same posting?

        Really, Ms. Fink.  I’m honestly ashamed for you.

        Edit: I am usually impressed with your posts, but this time you fell into a rhetorical bear trap; you have demonized your opposition to the point that you cannot see commonalities that are obvious to many others.

        1. Occupy and the Tea Party are directly at odds when it comes to election/campaign finance that enables essentially criminal groups like the NRA. Your comment makes no sense. Tea Party is funded/created by the groups that are pro-Citizens United, unlimited spending, against lobbying restrictions etc.

          1. Maybe you should consider what I was actually talking about.

            Edit: although it is sort of fascinating to see you and millie fink give such excellent demonstrations of my point.

            2nd Edit: any emotion you found on that mountain you brought with you. But I guess you are right about coherence – I’m not eloquent enough to reach the True Believers like yourself, who are incapable of compromise with your Evil Enemies.

          2. Maybe you should work on being more coherent with your points? Your comment makes no sense. Maybe you didn’t think it through. It was pretty emotional after all: “OccuTARDS”..

          3. Edit: although it is sort of fascinating to see you and millie fink give such excellent demonstrations of my point.

            What point? As stated above, your comment makes no sense.

            As for other epithets, I have no problem at all with people who hang teabags from their hats being called “teabaggers.” The double-meaning doesn’t escape me, though knowing that it probably would escape many of them makes it all that much more delightful.

            As for your being “ashamed” of me — wtf? Tres bizarre! 

          4. You made a comparison to Occupy vs. Tea Party.  They argued that the comparison doesn’t work, because despite their rhetoric, the Tea Party is demonstrably pro-corruption in terms of policies.

            It really undermines your whole premise: “Well, if they could just work together on this issue!”  Well, they can’t because in reality they are on opposite sides of that issue.

            The gun-control issue is similar.  You act as though the NRA has some moral equivalence with people saying, “Well, gee, maybe stricter gun laws should be on the table.”  One side here is willing to compromise, one is not, and you’re pretending to be the high-minded reasonable one by suggesting: “Hey, guys, can’t we just compromise?”

  6. Just another way the NRA is tripping-over-itself stupid.  I just so happened to use that database this weekend to answer some questions I had.  I found out that there are approximately 123 accidental gun-related deaths per year among children from the database.  I also found out that there are approximately 60,000 homicides that are prevented by gun owners using that data.  I learned that swimming pools are nine times more dangerous to children than guns.
    Anybody who is arguing to suppress data, on any side of any question, is wrong.
    The NRA is a purely political creature – they even support anti-gun bills that data and statistics don’t support as having any benefit if they think it will score them political points.  It’s just a shame so many pro-rights people donate money to them.

          1. Kleck admitted his work was all fucked up, then claimed that the errors proved he was right, because other errors similar to his in unrelated studies favoured the proposed result of the studies.

            He’s practically a criminal. 

  7. The background of this, as explicitly stated in the linked article, is a study from 1993 called “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home”
    The study, the letters to the New England Journal of medicine in response, the authors’ responses to those letters, and the critiques of the study easily found elsewhere are very interesting reading for someone interested in how science should be done.

    1. Meh, if that happened then the NRA would beatify whoever was left alive as heroes who defended themselves…

      even if the only one left alive was the person who started shooting.

  8. Society: We are doing it all wrong!
    Everything. And we need to change.

    Protection: Why do we always need more protection? Metal detectors and locks on schools, owning guns to protect ourselves? From whom? terrorists? No, other Americans in our supposed civil society. This isn’t what we wish this country to be, and the government really cant help too much because of the constitution, so We the People can and must change ourselves. We have Failed on this

    Mental Health: We always just wait to hear from the news that the killer was insane, or a loner, mentally disabled, troubled youth with a tragic upbringing. That satisfies our conscience and we say we’ll put into place things that can identify these individuals, which is obviously not working.
    The problem is we failed 20 years ago. We need better assessments and counseling, not to find these ‘violent types’, but just to give kids that need more assistance the tools they need to cope, as well as the understanding of their peers, teaching kindness and patience. This would put a very good foundation on our children. We have Failed on this.

    School: There is no amount of money that is too much to give to schools. We should give until their accounts overflow, then the kids should donate all that extra to charities in their communities. There should be no political argument that would limit funding to school. We have Failed on this.

    Religion: I am an atheist, and all the crackpot creationists and their like make me crazy. However… 90+% of religious people are normal middle of the road. They really don’t push their way into the schools because they actually understand the separation between church and state. But it really makes me wonder if the general moderate religions had more input, that would push the extremists to the fringe and add some of the moral and ethical thought that their belief brings. Because, the secular way to try and teach that is pretty lame.

    Entertainment: The 1st amendment is the core of our country and should never be oppressed, but that does not mean that we cant change our views and choose not to watch movies and TV with such excessive violence. It is true that entertainment just reflects society, and makes what people want. And entertainment is very clear and obvious as to what our society accepts. We have Failed miserably on this. Entertainment doesn’t create killers, it does worse, it creates our society that can be shocked and outraged, but when the movie (or reality) is over, we can go on with our lives, and save the change for later. Remember Aurora, Columbine, and too many others. We have really Failed on this.

     Finally, Guns:  Those who say that the better gun control wouldn’t have prevented this is total bullshit. An those who say that if the principal had a gun it wouldn’t have been so bad, is from another reality altogether.  Tighter gun control would have absolutely 100% prevented this. And even if it would have had 0% why would it be an excuse to not do something about it! Gun = 20 dead kids. seriously just do that math. People are gun enthusiasts because guns are definitely awesome things, the mechanics, the style, the sheer power. I’ve always been fascinated by them and learned how to shoot as well. But we idolize them as powerful protectors, when in reality they should be feared as killers. 
    Maybe we should all look through the eyes of some 6 or 7 year old children cowering in a corner about to be shot to death, to truly understand that fear.

    I have two 7 year old boys, and this event was the most terrifying nightmare that could ever happen to a parent.

    There is no one solution here, there is no justice, no redemption.
    This is a situation that we have born upon ourselves.
    We have Failed, but We can fix it if we care enough to, and We have to care enough to fix it.

      1. Well, the first amendment is vastly more important.  The second is barely even relevant 250 years after its authorship since if the US military WAS used against the US populace there would be shit all a few idiots with guns could do about it.

        But that said, I would absolutely go to the mat for your right to be part of a well-regulated militia.  What’s that you say?  You just want to own guns and not have that tied to the responsibility and discipline involved in being in a militia?  Then maybe you’re not taking the second amendment as seriously as you claim to.

      2. Why don’t you understand the meaning of the word amendment?

        The second amendment needs to be interpreted in a reasonable fashion, rather like the bible, then it would serve all Americans. Do you think you should be stoned to death for wearing a nylon shirt with cotton pants?

        Or are you under the impressionable impression that gun control equals an end to private ownership rather than what it would realistically mean in the USA?

      3. All the amendments are a part of the core of our society. but none should be allowed to impact the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
        Life being the most important one there.
        So we say the 2nd amendment as helping to protect these things, but it unquestionably has the ability to take away those things, that’s where the tragedy lies.

        The constitution is a living document, we have added amendments and repealed them, slavery, suffrage, prohibition. Things that help further the good society we wish to live in are kept and revered, the ones that are harmful or aren’t working as we expected, are amended again or repealed.  The 2nd amendment is looking like it might be doing more harm than the good that it intended.

        It’s doubtful that anyone in the current congress will attempt to take on an bill or rights repeal.. obviously a very big deal. But there is plenty that can be done for safety and rationality.

      4. The 1st is mitochondrial. The 2nd is a spandrel. Like male nipples. The rest of us are trying to disarm warheads while you dickheads play knife-fight game theory.

  9. I’m sick of arguing with these NRA idiots.  You guys win.  In fact, let’s give a gun AND a hit of PCP to every man, woman, and child in the USA and let them do what comes naturally.

  10. As a former ‘government’ scientist, I have to tell you that not all agencies are free from political bias.  Among those where bias is endemic are the CDC and the EPA.  CDC was enjoined from spending money on firearms research both because of obvious bias and and poor study design in several flawed projects, and because gun ownership is not a disease.

  11. Well every time a dozen or more kids get their heads blown off the gun lobby points out that this could have just as easily been done by a maniac with a corkscrew.  Let’s take them at their word and legislate a compulsory exchange of automatic weapons for corkscrews.  It’s a win-win situation.  The gun owners get something that, as they have been telling us for years, is just as good as their old rifles for self defence and the gun control lobby gets lots of guns off the streets.

  12. Avoid the word ‘society.’ You’ll discover that, like prosody, the exercise makes you more thoughtful.

    ‘C*nt,’ however, is more context-specific. As in: “the c*nt-y NRA may not agree with that c*nt, but they will defend to the death his right to c*nt.”

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