Source: gallup.com

It’s a sign of the popularity of the gun rights movement — and the tremendous success we continue to have in winning elections, court cases, and ‘hearts and minds’ generally — that the anti gun folks have shifted from the objective they pursued during my childhood of trying to ban handguns (as Josh Sugarmann, founder of the Violence Policy Center advocated in his 2001 book,) to fighting for public funding to propagandize in favor of gun control via the CDC. It’s almost as if they’ve said to themselves, “Well…what the hell? We might as well give it a try. It’s not like anything else is working.” . . .

The anti-gun extremists do have a few cards up their sleeve, of course, and having a ready supply of fellow travellers and useful idiots in the legacy media is one of them. Dr. Timothy Wheeler has done an excellent job of outlining the rather serious problems with CNN’s recent opinion piece masquerading as a news article in favor of anti-gun extremists who claim that the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) should “do something” about gun violence.

As is made clear in his writing, the CDC had been subsidizing “rockstar gun control advocates” for their efforts in lobbying Congress for their extremist ideology in opposition to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which was the reason that the ban on CDC funding for such efforts was promulgated in the first place.

The extremists in the civilian disarmament movement are now making a push to overturn that ban — styled the Dickey Amendment, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1995. (Note for aspiring researchers: this is not the same thing as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, passed around the same time, which concerns the use of embryos in research.) The Dickey Amendment specifies 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.”

While the small number of anti-gun ideologues are pretty much a lost cause, there exist a considerable number of people in the middle who might be persuaded to consider the possibility that simply funding the CDC to promote research wouldn’t, by itself, be a bad thing. I’d therefore like to ask a question: at what point do we admit to ourselves that, in many circumstances in the arena of so-called ‘social sciences,’ we’ve crossed the line between propaganda and rigorous, fair-minded scientific inquiry?

Consider the following. It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that none of the questions below should be taken to imply anything about my personal views or opinions on any of these subjects. More to the point, I’m not a scientist, and haven’t spent a significant amount of time researching any of these subjects to any great extent, so even if I was offering my opinions on these topics, you probably shouldn’t be listening to them anyway anyway.

  • Would it be appropriate for the federal government to have the CDC fund a research project headed by an anti-religion activist to determine whether or not religion is a sort of mental “virus”, and effectively a mental illness of some kind? (Does it make the proposed research better or worse if the study examines certain religions which have had a propensity to encourage its adherents to violence in the more recent past?)
  • Would it be appropriate for the CDC to conduct research into the origins of homosexuality — i.e., is it purely genetic, as many have claimed, or are there environmental causes, too? I’ve heard it proffered that childhood sexual abuse may have a correlation — I personally don’t think that has much to do with it, but why would a scientific inquiry into the subject be inappropriate?
  • Why don’t we have the CDC give money to a researcher hand-picked by the Koch brothers take a look at the long-term public health effects of fifty years of left-wing social and economic policies on residents of major cities? The libertarian Kochs are very interested in these types of policy questions, and I’m sure they could recommend some good grantees. Again, this is intended to be a rigorous scientific study, so personal biases shouldn’t matter as long as scientific protocols are followed, any more than it matters when anti-gun researchers like David Hemenway conduct research that leads to the shocking conclusion that firearms confiscation and repealing the Second Amendment is the most effective public health solution to violence in society. Right?
  • What about a research project funded by the CDC conducted under the auspices of an anti-abortion group to examine the correlation (if any) that abortions at a young age have on the mental health of women in later life? Anyone who’s followed what I’ve written in the past knows that I’m supportive of the legal right to an abortion, but surely this would be an interesting question to examine purely from a scientific perspective, right?

Would all of these be good or useful projects for the CDC to fund? Are they qualitatively any different than the CDC funding anti-gun ideologues to research origins and public policy options related to violence?

Again, I’m not an expert on any of these subjects. On a basic level, however, if we think that we can acquire some sort of “scientific” answer that can help inform our policy-making by having anti-gun ideologues conduct surveys into the multifarious reasons why people commit violent acts, surely the suggestions I’ve made above can’t be beyond the pale, either. Or is there a point where publicly-funded research into an area charged with political controversy might generate more heat than light?

Might there be a better use for taxpayer funds than to fund research projects whose primary objective might not be to expand the frontiers of human knowledge, but merely to give succor to folks with an ideological axe to grind?

Of course, I could be wrong on all of this. My knowledge of the sorts of things the CDC does is limited, so if they are already funding the kinds of projects I mentioned above, please hit the comments and let me know. I’d be curious to read them.

16 Responses to If CDC Funding of Gun Research is a Good Idea, Let’s Not Stop There

  1. CDC – Center for Disease Control. Since when is violence of any kind a disease? And if it is a disease, isn’t it more under the purvue of the National Institute for Mental Health?

    Perhaps the two alphabet agencies can collaborate on a study of hoplophobia.

    • Well studying things as if it was disease is kind of an innovative way to solve problems.

      Unfortunately that doesn’t solve the inherent conflict of interest. Also (as others have pointed out) why would CDC research be any better than the criminology research others are already doing?

      Also why would they focus on guns instead of the top ten killers in the US?

  2. Good write up. Unfortunately now your on a short list of perfect subjects for a super secret CDC examination at their hidden arctic lab, Complete with rear end probing, waterboarding and shock therapy.

  3. Thank you, Johannes, for the kind mention.

    Medpage Today (a medical industry news and business publication of sorts), just published an interview with Dr. Wheeler with earthshattering historic honesty and accuracy:

    http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/PublicHealth/55267

    Not since Dr. Wheeler’s testimony which, in part, led to the Dickey amendment has a non-gun publication of any kind published the facts of institutional bias at the CDC which compelled Congress to ban the agency from anti-gun activism.

  4. I’ve always wondered, what exactly is the ‘disease’ associated with guns that the CDC could investigate? CDC is based on the care, prevention and control of outbreaks of communicable diseases. So they have no business in gun violence research. That would be the realm of the Justice Dept and the FBI. Else what am I missing?

  5. Maybe the CDC can look into why and how doctors and hospitals have killed over a million patients in the last decade and sickened millions more.

    • Just like how the demanding moms include suicides in their gun violence data, your study could assume that every person who doesn’t leave the hospital alive was a victim of malpractice. What a scandal that study would be. Too bad there’s no one out there with a pathological hatred for the public health system to fund and propagate it.

    • If it were only a million in the last decade, that would be a huge improvement. More recent studies have estimated the number killed by preventable medical mistakes as between 200,000 and 400,000 per year. “Gun violence” has a lot of work to do to catch up to that body count.

    • Ha! Right? How many people die of secondary infections they caught in hospitals?

      They need to be researching how to effect better sterility in hospitals. Not whether guns make you murder people.

  6. Well, maybe they could have Nazis do medical research at the new Work Makes You Free Camps for people on the Terror Watch List.

  7. Gun violence is not a public health issue and research into gun violence was never stopped by the Dickey Amendment. It has continued unabated in the profession that is the true expert on it, the criminology profession. Public health researchers researching gun violence would be like criminologists researching disease.

  8. >> Would it be appropriate for the federal government to have the CDC fund a research project headed by an anti-religion activist to determine whether or not religion is a sort of mental “virus”, and effectively a mental illness of some kind?

    Yes.

    (I’m not sure whether you’re aware, but it’s actually a hypothesis that has been voiced, and has gathered considerable evidence, among some ethologists.)

    >> Would it be appropriate for the CDC to conduct research into the origins of homosexuality — i.e., is it purely genetic, as many have claimed, or are there environmental causes, too?

    Sure. Though the value of such a study is unclear – I mean, it’s interesting to know, but there’s no pressing need to find out, and there’s no potential threat here that needs to be addressed (unless we’re in the middle of a homosexual crime wave that I’m not aware of), so it’s probably out of CDC’s purview, specifically.

    >> Why don’t we have the CDC give money to a researcher hand-picked by the Koch brothers take a look at the long-term public health effects of fifty years of left-wing social and economic policies on residents of major cities?

    This seems to be an awfully vague goal for a study. Are there specific effects that you have in mind?

    >> What about a research project funded by the CDC conducted under the auspices of an anti-abortion group to examine the correlation (if any) that abortions at a young age have on the mental health of women in later life?

    Sure.

  9. Good luck making this point to people who are in denial. I tried much more subtly and was STILL maligned as an anti-science moron by some facebook rando who knew nothing about me.

  10. What the US needs now is a study on the short and long term benefits to society of housing soldiers in private dwellings. Perhaps we could hire some African warlords, the ones who prefer child-soldiers, to see to the study. I’m sure that they would produce “useful” results.

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