Many of you liked our earlier post, Purple Hearts and Guns. It is honest, heartfelt, and correct. But despite doing what I considered thorough research, it is incomplete. This won’t be a fun read, but it might be enlightening.
Our Congress has effectively barred The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying the causes and possible ways of preventing gun violence.
In 1996, Congress approved a budget restriction that stated, “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 ban remains to this day, and it was later extended to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), another federal agency that studies public health issues.
The aim of this was and is to prevent any consideration of guns as a serious public health risk. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner was asked about this at a 2013 press conference. Here’s his reply: “The CDC is there to look at diseases that need to be dealt with to protect public health. I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease. Guns don’t kill people — people do. And when people use weapons in a horrible way, we should condemn the actions of the individual and not blame the action on some weapon.”
Nobody wants their product to be blamed for cutting short the human life span. Think of Big Tobacco. Think of Detroit back in the day when they made all our cars. But now we know that cigarettes used according to their manufacturer’s instructions will kill you. We know that seat belts, turn signals, airbags, and shoulder harnesses add cost but also save lives. Yet we know very little about the causes and possible prevention of gun violence.
In 2013, 33,000 Americans died in vehicle accidents. That same year 34,000 were killed by firearms. We know a lot about car wrecks, and so little about shootings. Why have we let the NRA legislate ignorance? And in what universe is ignorance preferable to knowledge? (The answer is below.)
The one we live in.