Last week, I posted a letter from the University of Chicago Crime Lab, signed by dozens of academic experts, to Vice President Joe Biden’s Gun Violence Commission urging politicians to lift a ban on research of gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Insititutes of Health.
Well, if you believe in knowledge, here’s some good news. President Obama is moving on this issue as part of his wide-ranging proposal to reduce gun violence (from Inside Higher Ed):
Obama issued an order to the Department of Health and Human Services to have the CDC as well as the National Institutes of Health study issues related to gun violence, and asked Congress to appropriate $10 million for additional work in the area. Obama said in his public remarks that research is part of the solution to gun violence, and he sharply criticized the past limits on studies.
“While year after year, those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it — and Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds,” Obama said in introducing his new policies. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”
Why is this controversial? Here’s the crux of the biscuit, courtesy of Inside Higher Ed:
It is unclear whether the National Rifle Association — which is leading a campaign against President Obama’s proposals — will focus on the research issues. The NRA press office, asked about the issue, only released the association’s general statement of opposition to the White House policies.A 2011 article in The New York Times, following the shootings in Tucson, detailed NRA criticism of social science research on guns, and the rationale offered for the limits on the use of federal funds to study gun violence. The article said that NRA members were alarmed when CDC-supported research in the mid-1990s found that having a gun in one’s house significantly increased the chances of homicide by a family member or acquaintance. These findings ran against the NRA view that having a gun in one’s home increased security.The article quoted an NRA lobbyist as saying that the problem was one of bias. “Our concern is not with legitimate medical science,” the lobbyist said. “Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated.”
And by the way, if you want to see how messed-up (as in both lax and hamstrung) federal policy and enforcement has been, check out last night’s Daily Show segments on gun control, here and here. Comendy Central’s Jon Stewart puts the mainstream news media to shame.