The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not inspired confidence with its response to COVID-19. That’s not NRA’s opinion—it’s borne out by the data.
A recent study from the RAND Corporationfound that “Surveys done among a representative group of Americans in May and October of 2020 show about a 10% decline in trust of the CDC over that period.” A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that trust in the agency fell 16 percent from April 2020 to September 2020. A report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health determined “The public’s rating of the nation’s public health system... [has] changed over time, with positive ratings of the public health system declining from 43% to 34% from 2009 to 2021.” This included a sharp drop in the CDC’s job-performance rating.
Despite the agency’s waning credibility in the face of an actual disease, the big brains at CDC appear eager to further alienate the public by diving headlong into a political quagmire.
In late August, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky sat down with CNN to announce the agency’s intent to target gun owners. Speaking about firearms, Walensky said, “I swore to the president and to this country that I would protect your health. This is clearly one of those moments, one of those issues that is harming America’s health.”
Americans don’t want the CDC using a “public-health approach” to treat firearms as if they were germs transmitting a communicable disease. Rather, we understand that criminal violence perpetrated with firearms is best addressed by targeting violent perpetrators through the criminal justice system.
Alongside its polling about trust in the public health system, Harvard asked survey respondents whether they considered 33 different topics to be within the purview of public-health agencies. Actual health-related issues such as “controlling the spread of infectious diseases,” “providing vaccines” and “reducing infant mortality and preterm birth” garnered the most support. “Preventing violence and deaths from guns” ranked 31 out of 33, with few considering it a responsibility for public-health agencies.
Walensky’s forthcoming effort isn’t the first time CDC has targeted gun owners. In the early 1990s, CDC officials from the agency’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) funded biased and flawed firearms research and collaborated with anti-gun organizations to advocate for gun control.
CDC reports and publications urged restrictive gun legislation. A 1993 CDC report titled “Injury Control in the 1990s: A National Plan for Action” advocated for may-issue handgun licensing, “a registry of all gun purchases” and making “possession of unregistered handguns a criminal offense.” A 1995 CDC-funded newsletter urged readers to “Put gun control on the agenda of your civic or professional organization” and “Organize a picket at gun manufacturing sites… .”
Making the agency’s position crystal clear, NCIPC Director Mark Rosenberg told a media outlet in 1994 that guns should be treated like cigarettes—“dirty, deadly and banned.”
Recognizing that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund attacks on their Second Amendment rights, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment in 1996. Often misconstrued by the legacy press as a ban on firearm-related research, the language prohibited public funds from being used “in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.”
Walensky appears cognizant of this restriction. Carefully parsing her words, the CDC director told CNN, “I’m not here about gun control. I’m here about preventing gun violence and gun death.”
This wordplay will give little comfort to gun owners. For decades, anti-gun groups have urged their followers to avoid the term “gun control” in their messaging guides, and Walensky is just following suit. The messaging might change, but the civilian- disarmament campaign’s goals don’t.
Moreover, the CDC has demonstrated a penchant for violating federal law. In August, the U.S. Supreme Court reprimanded the agency for an eviction moratorium that even Joe Biden admitted was illegal. Gun owners should be wary of the agency showing a similar disregard for federal funding restrictions.
With the CDC’s reputation diminished amidst a pandemic, its own poor performance and a legal rebuke, it would be reasonable for the agency to refocus its efforts on what the American people expect it to do—combat actual disease. However, if the partisans at CDC would rather play politics, they might want to consider another data point. As of Sept. 1,boddsmakers placed the probability of the U.S. House changing hands in 2022 at more than 70 percent.