The notion of earmarking federal revenue for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for research on firearm injuries and deaths has reared its head again in that nation’s capital. And, with that, there’s the accompanying question of objectivity—or lack thereof—in such studies, casting a long shadow over the legitimacy of such a proposal.
Those who value this country’s firearms freedom are not blowing smoke when they suggest that American taxpayers should put the brakes on such talk—not because the end goal lacks purpose, but because we’ve seen in the past how the CDC cannot put existing bias aside to conduct objective research.
Earlier this month, Congress held a hearing on “Addressing the Public Health Emergency of Gun Violence.” With Democrats now in charge of the House of Representatives, a move is afoot to discount the merits of the Dickey Amendment—a provision that was first added to appropriations legislation in 1996 mandating that the CDC could not use funding to advocatefor gun control. The provision was needed to protect gun owners’ rights because there was concern about the federal government’s push to create “empirical” findings that would make it easier to justify restrictions on private firearm ownership.
To understand the CDC bias that led to the Dickey Amendment, one need only look to the actions of government researchers at the time. Most famously, Mark Rosenberg, the former Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention, described the center’s plan to make firearms as unpopular with the public as cigarettes describing them as “dirty, deadly—and banned.”
More evidence of CDC bias recently came to light when it was discovered that in the years immediately after passage of the Dickey Amendment, the CDC sat on findings about defensive gun uses (DGUs)—supporting the assertion that people use guns to protect themselves or others way more often than the federal government was willing to admit.
If the CDC wants to improve gun research, it could start by improving the quality of its own data. In its estimate of the number of non-fatal firearm-related injuries, the CDC said that between 31,000 and 236,000 people were injured by guns in 2017. That’s akin to saying a Major League baseball player will end up with a batting average of between .000 and 1.000. Yep, the range is accurate because every player will be within that range, but then again, that’s not saying much, is it?
The current class of left-leaning representatives in Congress is trying an end run to brush aside the questions about the CDC’s forthrightness in research by, of all things, saying the Dickey Amendment can be used as what Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., called a “guardrail” to keep things on the right track.
But here’s the thing. If a politician suggests that you need a “guardrail” to ensure that research stays on track, isn’t that a tacit admission of the fact that the CDC’s research can’t be trusted?
One of the points that John Lott, of the Crime Prevention Research Center, made at the hearing draws on that sentiment. He said that when private entities—like universities—fund research, you get a truer result because there’s less pressure to come up with findings supporting the university president’s views or the dean’s views.
But as we saw with the data from the late 1990s—when the CDC stashed data supporting DGUs in a hole so deep it took decades to find it—government researchers are more beholden to the political winds blowing at the time. And when decidedly anti-gun politicians hand over millions for “research” on firearms, there’s not much hope that the CDC—or any other government agency—can be trusted to come up with an accurate picture.