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Stop the NRA's Block on Gun Research!

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Without solid, supportable research on gun control as a national health issue, the questions about its effectiveness are left unanswerable. After President Obama included instructions in his 23 Executive Orders to several federal science agencies to resume such research, the NEW YORK TIMES noted: " That Mr. Obama had to make such a decree at all is a measure of the power of the gun lobby, which has effectively shut down government-financed research on gun violence for 17 years. Research on guns is crucial to any long-term effort to reduce death from guns. In other words, treat gun violence as a public health issue."

"But that is precisely what the National Rifle Association and other opponents of firearms regulation do not want. In the absence of reliable data and data-driven policy recommendations, talk about guns inevitably lurches into the unknown, allowing abstractions, propaganda and ideology to fill the void and thwart change."

Why should the gun lobby fear the results of such research? They have always maintained that gun control will make no difference to the number of gun deaths, that it is an ineffective measure, and that the real culprits are the mental health system in the US and the pervasive culture of violence; if they are correct, why should they fear such research? If they are correct, it should only support their claims and strengthen their argument.

Again quoting the NEW YORK TIMES: " Public health research emphasizes prevention of death, disability and injury. It focuses not only on the gun user, but on the gun, in much the same way that public health efforts to reduce motor vehicle deaths have long focused on both drivers and cars.

The goal is to understand a health threat and identify lifesaving interventions. At their most basic, gun policy recommendations would extend beyond buying and owning a gun (say, background checks and safe storage devices) to manufacturing (childproofing and other federal safety standards) and distribution (stronger antitrafficking laws), as well as educating and enlisting parents, physicians, teachers and other community leaders to talk about the risks and responsibilities of gun ownership.

But by the early 1990s, C.D.C. gun research had advanced to the point that it contradicted N.R.A. ideology. Some studies found, for example, that people living in a home with a gun were not safer; they faced a significantly elevated risk of homicide and suicide.

The N.R.A. denounced the research as “political opinion masquerading as medical science,” and in 1996, Congress took $2.6 million intended for gun research and redirected it to traumatic brain injury. It prohibited the use of C.D.C. money “to advocate or promote gun control.” Since then, similar prohibitions have been imposed on other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health. "

Please support President Obama's efforts to once again allow the science agencies of the US government to pursue research on this matter, and to federally fund such research. Knowing the facts about this issue is critical to understanding what measures may help alleviate the problem of gun violence in this country.

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