Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend identifies one obvious gun safety solution

If you missed it, be sure to check out yesterday’s lead editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal. In “Gun research is needed,” the authors highlight one simple step that ought to be taken to address the nation’s gun violence epidemic. Here’s the conclusion:

“It’s time to let the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention turn its considerable resources on gun violence, something that clearly threatens the well-being of Americans, especially our children. CDC research identifying the causes of deaths and injuries from car crashes has led to greater use of seat belts and child seats and to safer car designs. The CDC helped us figure out and deal with the health threats from smoking, including second-hand smoke.

But since 1996, the CDC has largely had its hands tied when it comes to dealing with gun violence. The so-called Dickey Amendment passed that year, with NRA backing, said that the CDC’s injury center could not use federal funds “to promote or advocate gun control.” That was followed by Congress’ taking away the money that the CDC had been using for research into gun violence. While the Dickey Amendment wasn’t, strictly speaking, a ban on gun research, the CDC got the message. With almost no money available anyway, the CDC dropped research on gun violence.

We support scientific research on so many other threats, but we continue to recycle the same old arguments about guns, based often on emotion and misconceptions about what many people on the “other side” really believe. How much better it would be to get answers based on scientific research about the causes of gun violence, which approaches would actually work to reduce it, and what we can learn from the experience of other countries.

Democrats have long called for lifting restrictions on the CDC. In the wake of the Parkland shooting, some Republicans in Washington are showing signs that they might be willing to relent. Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro), for one, has been quoted as saying he doesn’t “have a problem with anyone researching any segment of society” and would have a problem with blocking research.

The NRA has tended to treat any talk of research into gun violence as a threat to gun rights. That shouldn’t be the case. Skilled scientific researchers should be able to find ways to reduce the violence without jeopardizing sensible Second Amendment rights. Let’s let them get to work.”

The only thing wrong with the editorial is its gentle description of the NRA’s opposition to research. The NRA hasn’t just “tended” to oppose research, it has forcefully and relentlessly opposed it. As Congressman David Price told Policy Watch a few weeks back after the Parkland, Florida shooting, he’s been trying for years to reinstate CDC research, but gets beaten back every year by NRA-owned members of Congress. Let’s hope cracks are starting form in this irrational opposition, but, given the NRA’s past destructive and murderous record, don’t hold your breath.

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