Scholars at the nonpartisan Rand Corp. last year published the findings of a two-year study that assessed available scientific evidence on the real effects of gun laws and policies. One of their biggest take-aways was that there was no good evidence on key questions of gun safety and violence. ...
As part of the bipartisan government spending bill that won final congressional approval recently, $25 million will be provided for gun-violence research, divided between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. Compared with what is spent for research into other causes of death and injury, it isn’t much, but it’s the first time in two decades Congress has allocated funding for the issue. That makes the vote a major victory for gun-safety advocates and researchers.
Fledgling federal efforts to study gun violence and prevention were snuffed out in 1996 when the National Rifle Association, threatened by scientific findings that undermined its agenda, used its clout to enact legislation barring the CDC from using funds “to advocate or promote gun control.” The Dickey Amendment was named after Rep. Jay Dickey, an Arkansas Republican who promoted the amendment but later renounced it and campaigned against it until his death in 2017. It didn’t literally bar federal research, but the CDC understood it as a warning to abandon its efforts. “Imagine if we had never done any research on cancer and people were dying from it in large numbers. ... Well, that’s what happened with gun research,” said Mark Rosenberg, former director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Dr. Rosenberg, who clashed with Dickey but then became a friend and ally in campaigning for gun research, warned that there will be no instantaneous magical solution. Progress, he told us, will come in increments as data is collected and studied and understood in a collaborative way that still protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners.