President Obama's demand Wednesday for research into gun violence could usher in a flood of data on the nation's 32,000 annual gun deaths after decades of an information blackout.
Scientists and policy makers say they have little scientific data about gun violence after Congress prohibited federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), from offering research grants to study anything that could be used to promote gun control.
More than 100 research scientists noted in a letter to Vice President Biden that since 1973, the NIH has awarded three research grants to study more than 4 million gun injuries while awarding 212 grants to study cholera and 129 grants to study polio. Both illnesses have been nearly eradicated in the United States.
The end of federal research into gun violence came in 1996 when Congress first passed a National Rifle Association-backed amendment to a CDC appropriations bill that prohibited spending federal dollars on research that could be used to "advocate or promote gun control." The bill cut $2.6 million from the CDC's National Center for Injury and Control.We should all be thoroughly ashamed that a lobbying organization like the NRA could have so completely shut off the spigot of federal funding for research in this area. The NRA seems to believe that the solution to gun violence is more guns, but as someone said on TV today, if more guns were the solution, we'd be the safest nation on earth--yet we aren't.