The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appropriately used to do gun violence research, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. Because gun violence wreaks havoc on individuals and communities, its consequences are clearly in the purview of a national organization that concerns itself with public health.
One disease the CDC might have focused on was the acute paranoia of the National Rifle Association, a bully of an advocacy group that not only fights any attempts by Congress or state legislatures to regulate firearms but also tries to eliminate what regulations there are.
And so, in 1996-97, the NRA simply bullied Congress into cutting the CDC budget by the exact amount of money that was to be devoted to gun violence research. And the NRA pushed the weak-kneed Congress into going further: Some of the NRA’s most loyal congressional allies made it clear to the CDC that if the organization went ahead with gun violence research there would be more cuts to its budget.
Wow. That’s power. The NRA’s power. An organization crucial to alerting the nation to health risks, to monitoring disease, to advising Congress and the president on health policy, is threatened into submission by the gun lobby, through the Congress.
This was a despicable maneuver, and now doctors are lobbying Congress to undo the horrendous mistake that was made. Last week, as the latest gun violence tragedy was unfolding in California, doctors in white coats appeared in Washington to deliver a petition with 2,000 signatures of doctors from around the country, asking lawmakers to remove the restriction placed on the CDC. One of those supporting them was North Carolina’s 4th District Rep. David Price.
The CDC could obviously provide valuable research into preventing gun violence, recommending preventative laws, suggesting what mental maladies should disqualify a person from owning a gun. Could it be that had the CDC been allowed to continue its research, it might have found some ways to stem the spread of gun violence?
The timing was tragically appropriate.
How self-satisfied the NRA must feel. No matter the magnitude of the nation’s latest gun tragedy, the organization can beat back any suggestion of public policy that might stop or reduce gun violence because that might be seen as a threat to the Second Amendment, which this lobby wears as a shield.
The doctors, on the other hand, are standing up for public health, for common-sense research, driven only by science and not politics, that might in some way reduce the episodes of gun violence in this country that take the life of more than one person a day.