Montana Politics US Politics

Gun Control: Let’s Ignore the Facts

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Whenever there is a debate about gun ownership in the United States, each side asserts its position on the relationship between gun ownership and safety. The pro-gun crowd contends that gun ownership makes homeowners safer and those opposed to unrestricted and unregulated gun ownership argue that increased access to guns is a threat to public health.

It’s a debate played out ad nauseum, but one that has been hampered by a lack of research.It turns out the pro-gun crowd pushed and passed legislation that makes it very difficult to know the truth:

Language was also inserted into the centers’ appropriations bill that remains in place today: “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 prohibition is striking, firearms researchers say, because there are already regulations that bar the use of C.D.C. money for lobbying for or against legislation. No other field of inquiry is singled out in this way.

In the end, researchers said, even though it is murky what exactly is allowed under this provision and what is not, the upshot is clear inside the centers: the agency should tread in this area only at its own peril.

Poorly-worded, budget threatening language that makes it very difficult to determine the public health impacts of gun ownership sounds exactly like something the NRA would promote. Instead of an informed debate about the real impacts of gun ownership, Americans are forced to deal with absurd, unsupported statistical claims that gun ownership increases personal and public health.

The result? A tragic lack of information that has kept the United States from reducing the number of gun deaths in the country:

The tragedy of gun violence is compounded by the fact that the usual methods for addressing a public health and safety threat of this magnitude—collection of basic data, scientific inquiry, policy formation, policy analysis and rigorous evaluation—are, because of politically-motivated constraints, extremely difficult in the area of firearm research…. One consequence is that our current approach of “muddling trough” has led to little long-term progress in addressing this problem: While mortality rates from almost every major cause of death declined dramatically over the past half century, the homicide rate in America today is almost exactly the same as it was in 1950.

The CDC was and would never advocate for gun control. They’re scientists who explore public health. That the politicized, radical NRA would deny them the ability to research the true impact of guns demonstrates what the NRA knows, but will never admit: the unrestricted gun culture they’ve created hurts our health.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

15 Comments

  • Cherry picking the postwar data from 1950 is ignoring the fact that the murder rate (which isn’t only guns) is less than half of what it was 30 years or even 20 years ago. Hell, it’s fallen by a third just since the end of the assault weapons ban – despite the economic crisis.

    Fact is overall murder rate crime has been falling rapidly. The number of gun crimes has also been falling rapidly.

    A real trend that people should actually be worried about is the erosion of rights.

    • You’re right, Bob, but facts do not negate other facts as you propose. By way of example, suicide (a true health risk) by firearm, is not on the decrease.

    • Yes, Bob, homicides have gone down but 67.5% are still committed with guns. We’re lagging behind some South and Central American countries in homicides by gun per 100,000. We’re at 3.2%. But that puts us ahead of every Western European country (except Liechtenstein, which had one homicide and it was committed with a gun, giving it a 100% rating). Our stats are higher than Japan, Australia, Canada, India, Argentina, Ukraine, Jordan, Uganda, Romania, etc., etc.

      I won’t even get into accidental gun deaths or suicides.

  • Before you get too concerned about the “erosion of rights,” you should do some reading about the history of gun rights in this country. In every other era, there were more sensible regulations than are in place now, because of the NRA’s relentless assault on logic and the constitution.

    I’d also argue that you ignore the fundamental premise of the piece. It’s indefensible to prohibit research that might contradict the viewpoint of gundamentalists.

    • Yes, the have been era’s worse than others for every item in the Bill of Rights. Because they unfortunately happened doesn’t mean they were justified, it doesn’t mean those mistakes should be repeated.

      I don’t have a problem with research. My problem is with ignoring the facts. Which the headline complains about, and then the body does.

      • How could we possibly know the facts when the NRA and its allies have made it almost impossible to research the issue? I’d say that when a side in a debate need to legally restrict research about a topic, they’re probably not making the best case.

        Cries about erosion of rights are nothing more than NRA fearmongering and fundraising, especially when you concede that gun laws are more lax now than perhaps any time in our history.

        The issue is not an erosion of anyone’s rights. It’s public health and safety. There is absolutely no reason we can’t balance the interests of the Second Amendment with the interests of general welfare, just as we do with every other right.

        • We know the homicide rate. When know it’s decreasing. The NRA/congress isn’t blocking that, that has nothing to do with the specific debate over CDC.

          And no, erosion of rights isn’t fearmongering, it is the headline history books will use for the Bush/Obama era. And it’s absurd to say gun laws are more lax than at any time in history, ridiculously absurd.

          In recent years, no right has been effectively balanced. Every single one is out of whack, tilted against the right. The 2nd Amendment is no exception and it makes no sense to make things worse, especially as the purported problem continues to decrease at a rapid rate.

          It’s just silly, it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

          • I strongly suggest, Bob, that you focus your energies on the MCA and Patriot Acts 1 and 2, as opposed to giving grief to a website that argues for study of gun related deaths. I’ve written before that the second amendment is in no danger until we’ve lost the first, the fourth, the fifth and the sixth. If you think we’ve lost those (I fear we have) then why caterwaul about the loss of the second as if that means anything to the change we want to see?

          • My feeling is that this isn’t even really political. It’s economics. If the government keeps doing studies that keep showing that guns in the home are more likely to cause an accidental death than prevent an intentional one, that’s a big hit to sales. And Pogreba is correct – a ‘right’ that requires censorship to keep itself justified is a right that need re-thinking.

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