Former Representative Jay Dickey of Arkansas passed away last week at the age of 77 from Parkinson’s disease. While in office, Dickey sponsored a 1996 amendment that barred the Centers for Disease Control from funding research to promote gun control. He also cut an earmark intended to be used by the CDC for such research.
The amendment is often described by gun control advocates as a research ban, but as the actual text makes clear, the ban is on advocating for gun control, not research. (Given the political proclivities of most social sciences researchers — as well as recently-acknowledged problems with statistical methods — that’s probably a distinction without a difference.)
[N]one of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
While in office, Mr. Dickey raked Mark Rosenberg — the CDC chief during the Clinton years — over the coals during Congressional hearings, and Mr. Rosenberg did not seem to think highly of him, either, calling the Arkansas politician “duped by the NRA.” The two, however, formed a relationship that endured for a while, and eventually they came to an understanding of sorts. In the years before his death, both Dickey and Rosenberg called for more research into ways to prevent injuries from the use of firearms while respecting the right to keep and bear arms.
This was spun at the time as a volte-face by Mr. Dickey, which which, to be fair, it was, at least as far as his attitude toward funding of research and an apparent rejection of the organization which had long supported him, The NRA. He did continue to insist that research into firearms-related injuries not infringe the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Oddly, the bit about “respecting rights” has not been characterized as a turnaround by the former Clinton-era CDC chief.
The subtleties of the above, however, were lost on the writer of The New York Times’ obituary for Mr. Dickey, who used the congressman’s death to launch a multiparagraph screed about gun control and research. Somehow, though, the obituary omits what Mr. Dickey considered to be his most important legacy: the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which barred government funds from being used to create human embryos for medical research. I suppose news of that might have spoiled the brunches of a large segment of Times Upper West Side readers.
Obituaries are really about the living, not the dead, I suppose, but we typically don’t see them used in such a crassly political fashion as the Times did here. For shame.