The National Rifle Association wants to maintain as much ignorance as possible when it comes to the consequences of gun violence. Toward that end, the NRA successfully lobbied Congress 20 years ago to pass legislation barring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies from researching the toll guns take on public health.
Now U.S. Rep. David Price of North Carolina’s 4th District courageously is leading an effort joined by 145 other members of Congress to get congressional leaders to loosen the reins on the CDC and other agencies. “These deeply misguided appropriations provisions (the limits) and their chilling effect on research means that we do not have adequate data to assess the causes and impact of gun violence,” Price said. “This is a critical public health priority, and we are preventing the research community from providing lawmakers the support we need. ... Surely we can all agree that there is no harm in learning more about how to stop gun violence.”
Well, not everybody agrees. Though polls show the American public supports responsible gun laws, such as more detailed background checks and tougher regulation on purchases at gun shows, the NRA stands against virtually all regulation. And it does so, literally, no matter what. Twenty children died in Newtown; gunmen strike in malls and movie theaters. It doesn’t matter.
Members of Congress know that if they stand up against the NRA, the organization will come after them and their seats, no matter what it takes and how much it costs. Price’s leadership should be appreciated by his constituents, because he surely will feel the NRA’s wrath. Fortunately, his seat is fairly safe after nearly 30 years of his good service to his district.
The sad irony here is that this isn’t even about regulation. It’s about allowing federal agencies to treat gun violence as a health issue and to gather research data to help scientists and lawmakers understand just what the impact of gun violence is.
“Knowledge is power,” said Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois. “And when we’re dealing with a gun violence problem of epidemic proportions, we need every tool at our disposal.”
Why the NRA and members of Congress who ought to know better want to lock up the tool shed is a maddening mystery.