Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Causes Gun Violence? The NRA Doesn't Want You to Know

An entire federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has as its mission the understanding and prevention of death and injury on our roads and highways. It spent $62.4 million in 2012 for this. Over the years, the federal government has invested billions to understand the causes of motor vehicle fatalities and, with that knowledge, has markedly reduced traffic deaths in the United States. It’s estimates that 366,000 lives have been saved through such efforts from 1975 to 2009.

Interestingly, we suffer about the same number of deaths from firearms as we do from traffic accidents (we’ll actually suffer more in 2012). So how much are we spending to prevent injury and death due to gun violence?

From 1986 to 1996, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sponsored high-quality, peer-reviewed research into the underlying causes of gun violence. One of the findings; people who kept guns in their homes were not safer according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Instead, residents in homes with guns faced a 2.7-fold greater risk of homicide and a 4.8-fold greater risk of suicide.

These findings were troublesome to the National Rifle Association and they moved to suppress the dissemination of the results and to block funding of future government research into the causes of firearm injuries.

Jay Dickey, former representative from Arkansa (R-AR4) served as the NRA’s point person in Congress and submitted an amendment to an appropriations bill that removed $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget, the amount the agency’s injury center had spent on firearms-related research the previous year. This amendment, together with a stipulation that “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,” put an end to most government-funded research on gun violence. For the NRA, it was a matter of, “If you can’t stand the answer, don’t ask the question.”

Mr. Dickey, now retired, has since changed his mind. The NRA hasn't.

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, shot and killed January 29, 2013

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