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CDC Finally Resumes Gun Violence Research. What Next, Doctors Allowed To Ask Parents About Guns?
Won't someone think of the guns?
Thanks to pressure from the NRA and its pet members of Congress, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been prevented from doing meaningful research on America's epidemic of gun-related violence since 1996, when Congress passed the "Dickey Amendment." That measure didn't formally ban the CDC from researching gun violence as a public health threat — it merely defunded it, which amounts to the same thing. As NPR reported in 2018 when Congress voted to explicitly allow the CDC to research guns again (but without any new funding!), the NRA and its supporters were pissed off at the CDC for its heresy in publishing "alandmark 1993 study that concluded that having a gun in the home was more dangerous than not having one." Guns can't possibly be more dangerous than no guns, the NRA insisted, so no more funding for any science that would reach conclusions the NRA didn't like.
Fortunately, under Joe Biden's CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, the CDC will once more start doing more than the most rudimentary research on the public health effects of guns, and of gun laws. Currently, for instance, the CDC tracks how many Americans are killed with firearms: on average, slightly more than 100 a day, including crimes, suicides, accidents and negligent shootings, and the use of firearms by police. As NPR pointed out in a Wednesday story, there's a lot we don't know about other important questions:
But how often is someone injured by a firearm in America? Why, how and what kinds of weapons are used? What are the underlying causes? What's the relationship between shooter and victim? What evidence-based, scalable programs work best to help prevent criminal shootings, accidents and suicides? On these and other questions, people in public health, criminal justice, policing and academia admit they lack full and adequate answers. [...]
The CDC is now hoping to get a fuller picture of the data and long-neglected details on the impact of daily gun violence. The CDC and the National Institutes of Health, for the first time in nearly a quarter-century, are funding new research on guns to help reduce firearm-related injuries, deaths, crime and suicides.
CDC grants are funding research projects that, among other things, will look at how gun violence happens in various communities and population groups — such as service members and veterans, or adolescents who witness gun violence in their communities — so prevention efforts can be improved. In all, the CDC announced nearly $8 million in new research funding last week. Additional grant applications for funding from NIH are still under evaluation.
In addition, NPR says,
the CDC is now providing funding to 10 state health departments so they can start collecting data in near-real time on emergency room nonfatal firearm injuries. This will allow doctors and epidemiologists to potentially identify trends and craft swift interventions, as they have done to contain the coronavirus pandemic and other national health emergencies.
This is all very promising stuff, particularly given the increase in shootings during the last yea r — coinciding with huge increases in gun and ammo purchases during the pandemic. Sure, it stands to reason that a flood of new gun owners might result in more shootings, particularly when combined with increased paranoia, isolation and public fears about scary antifas and protesters insisting their Black lives also happen to matter. Or it might be something entirely different. But to really get a handle on why this is happening, researchers need solid data. And finally, after 24 years, the path is clear to start collecting and making sense of it.
And perhaps when the studies start showing results, this time Congress won't be pushed to suppress research the NRA doesn't like.
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