Gun-Related Research Becoming a Thing of the Past

| by Alex Groberman

In light of recent events in Arizona, gun rights and gun safety have emerged as issues on the forefront of the minds of many Americans.

Do more guns make communities safer? Are people more likely to commit crimes if firearms are readily available? Both sides of the debate have their opinions on the subject, and neither is staying particularly quiet in the wake of the shootings.

Meanwhile, researchers who ideally would be the sources to answer these questions now find themselves incapable because of a lack of available resources. According to the former director of the National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, Mark Rosenberg, the National Rife Association (N.R.A.) has taken it upon themselves to block research on the topics.

“We’ve been stopped from answering the basic questions,” said Rosenberg.

Before immediately condemning the N.R.A., though, it’s important to note that it hears the criticism – and the group is not afraid to respond to it.

“Our concern is not with legitimate medical science,” he said. “Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated.” Said Chris Cox, the N.R.A.’s chief lobbyist.

In a time when research should be readily available to anyone seeking it out, the amount of funds devoted to studying the impact of guns is nowhere near the levels it was in the mid-1990s. If that isn’t bad enough, the lack of attention has caused scientists and researchers to veer away from studying the matters.

Perhaps the biggest hit in the mission to devote money to firearm research occurred in the mid-1990s when the N.R.A. and their allies took the battle to Capitol Hill. During the drawn-out battle between the two sides, the injury center was guilty of putting out what was deemed personal opinion in the form of “medical science.”

In 1996 the C.D.C. had $2.6 million removed from its budget courtesy of an amendment put forth by Jay Dickey, a Republican politician from Arkansas. And while the money was later returned by the Senate, it was dictated that it should be put forth more so on research for traumatic brain injury than its previous usage.

According to the language in the  bill that is still there to this day:

“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.”

Since their now-infamous battles in 1996, the C.D.C. has devoted less time, money and resources to gun research. It appears that with all the red tape and controversy surrounding with the issue, they don’t feel as though the political fights are worth it.

Now private groups have attempted to fill the holes that were left behind. The problem, though, is that with limited funds and resources available, these foundations typically want quicker results and not long-drawn out research methods

Essentially, as a result of all of the unavoidable turmoil associated with gun issues, organizations prefer to simply steer clear.

But if nobody contributes funds and attention to gun-related issues, then it’s impossible to research them. If nobody researches the firearm-related problems, then there won’t be any political battles waged over them. And if there are no political battles waged, then everybody wins.

Everybody except the victims of gun-related crimes -- who ultimately become statistics that nobody ever gets to see.