Guns

How the NRA Blocks Gun Research

| Thu Jan. 27, 2011 12:35 PM EST

How much firepower does the gun lobby have? Consider this: since the mid-90s, the NRA has "all but choked off" money for research on gun violence, according to a story today in the New York Times. "We've been stopped from answering the basic questions," said Mark Rosenberg, the former director of the National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which used to be the leading source of financing for firearms research. Thanks to the gun lobby's obstruction, questions like whether more guns actually make communities safer, whether the ready availability of high-capacity magazines increases the number of gun-related deaths, or whether more rigorous background checks of gun buyers make a difference, remain maddeningly unanswered.

From the Times:

The dearth of money can be traced in large measure to a clash between public health scientists and the N.R.A. in the mid-1990s. At the time, Dr. Rosenberg and others at the C.D.C. were becoming increasingly assertive about the importance of studying gun-related injuries and deaths as a public health phenomenon, financing studies that found, for example, having a gun in the house, rather than conferring protection, significantly increased the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.

Alarmed, the N.R.A. and its allies on Capitol Hill fought back. The injury center was guilty of "putting out papers that were really political opinion masquerading as medical science," said [Chief NRA lobbyist Chris] Cox, who also worked on this issue for the N.R.A. more than a decade ago.

Pro-gun lawmakers failed to shutter the injury center in 1996, but did manage to prevent the CDC from using its injury prevention funds to push for gun control measures. As a result: the CDC has tiptoed around gun safety issues in the years since, keeping meaningful data on gun violence out of the hands of lawmakers who could use it to help pass sensible reform legislation. Until then, the NRA can rest easy and ask: where's your proof?

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