Gun control advocates have found a new way to spike the football, so to speak. Instead of standing in the end zone celebrating a victory, they’re mugging for the cameras from their own three-yard line. Hardly a win when they’re not even close to where they want to be and certainly when they’re celebrating something that they’ve been doing all along anyway.
Here’s the crux of it. Gun control advocates are churning out press releases and official statements from their elected offices about how this is the first time in a quarter century Congress funded gun research at the Centers for Disease Control.
It all hinges on the 1996 Dickey Amendment, named for its author former Congressman Jay Dickey (R-Ark.). The amendment states, “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.”
The Dickey Amendment Explained
The amendment was added after a 1993 CDC-funded study took an advocacy position linking gun ownership in the home to increased risk of death by a family member or friend. It might also have something to do with Dr. Patrick O’Carroll, the CDC’s Acting head of Division of Injury Control, saying, “We’re going to systematically build a case that owning firearms causes deaths. We’re doing the most we can do, given the political realities.”
He wasn’t alone. The Assistant Dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith wrote in her book Deadly Consequences, “I hate guns and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to own one. If I had my way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns would be banned.”
Not exactly what we’d call scientifically objective so far.
The media assertions that guns and gun ownership couldn’t be studied is a dubious claim too. The studies never stopped. Congress did pull $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget the same year they passed the Dickey Amendment. It’s also true that the $2.6 million was the exact same amount that was used for the bogus policy-pushing study. Congress sent a clear message to the CDC that It’s not your job to lobby for gun control policies.
It’s simply not true that the funding for research hasn’t been there, as antigun advocates and their allies in Congress would have the public believe. The CDC’s budget has more than tripled since the Dickey Amendment was passed to over $6 billion. If the CDC was being told they couldn’t study anything gun-related, they didn’t listen very well.
During that time, the CDC studied guns and suicide, noise and lead exposure at ranges, firearm violence prevention in Wilmington, Del., and issued a report on firearms homicides and suicides in metropolitan areas. That doesn’t include studies by the FBI, Department of Justice and Congressional studies.
There was also that instance in 2013 when President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order directing $10 million in “gun violence” research.
The CDC spent the money and published the results. It might not be a study gun control champions want when the objective studies concluded “defensive uses of guns” are more effective than “self-protective strategies,” that the “number of public mass shootings of the type that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School accounted for a very small fraction of all firearm-related deaths,” that gun show “loophole” accounted “for only a small percentage of guns used by convicted criminals,” that the majority of criminal violence with firearms is related to mental-health issue, among many other unhelpful things, as reported by the National Review.
Play It Again
Good coaches tell their players that when they do get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before. Gun control zealots can’t even take their own medicine when it comes to that. They’ve been here before. Just last year, President Donald Trump signed a spending bill that included an amendment clarifying what said the Dickey Amendment actually says and, more importantly, never said:
While appropriations language prohibits the CDC and other agencies from using appropriated funding to advocate or promote gun control, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has stated the CDC has the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence.
Gun control promoters were jubilant then, too. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) was so thrilled he sent a letter telling Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar he should start on the issue immediately.
Maybe the CDC just should have sent him the studies they’d already done over the previous 20 years.
Those who love the idea of having doctors study guns to push criminal violence as a health policy issue are selling snake oil. The American public knows this. Eight out of ten Americans surveyed said “gun violence” is a criminal issue, not a public health issue. It’s akin to telling someone who is fit they must lose weight because of American’s obesity issue.
Taking away from one doesn’t cure the other. Advocating gun bans through health studies isn’t not the cure for America’s crime problem.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.