3 Oct 2015

Congress Still Bans CDC Scientists From Studying Gun Violence

In the wake of another mass shooting (among many this year), we are asking again: What causes gun violence? Is there a causal relationship between gun ownership and gun violence? We might know the answers to these questions, or at least have a body of empirical evidence getting us closer to the answers, if government scientists were allowed to study them.

But they’re not.
In June, the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment that would have repealed a ban on scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducting research to study the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence. Supporters of the ban, including current House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) argue that the CDC shouldn’t study these questions because “a gun is not a disease.”

Arguably, though, CDC researchers have studied other kinds of environmental factors that play a role in human health and in human behaviors with implications for human health. Are alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs of abuse diseases? Is a faulty ventilation system, of the sort that might provide a hospitable environment for the bacterium that causes Legionnaire’s disease? Is a hurricane?  If you think, given its scientific mission, that the CDC is the wrong group of government scientists to study the connection between gun ownership and gun violence, fine. Allocate funding to the right government scientists, those working in the appropriate scientific disciplines to conduct the research. Establish research grants to support academic scientists studying this question. Do something to mobilize scientists to address this problem.

Or, admit that the point of the ban is that you don’t want scientists to work on these questions at all.
Why wouldn’t you want scientists to look into connections between gun ownership and gun violence?
Perhaps you think the question has already been decisively answered by existing research. This would make spending additional money, on research to answer an already-answered question, wasteful. If this is where you stand, show us the study.


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