The gun control debate in the United States went into overdrive today, as the President, surrounded by children who had written letters to the White House about gun violence, called on Congress “to renew a prohibition on assault weapons sales that expired in 2004, require criminal background checks on all gun purchases, including closing a loophole for gun show sales, and pass a new federal gun trafficking law – long sought by big-city mayors to keep out-of-state guns off their streets.” In addition, he referenced 23 executive actions which he intends to take immediately, which would not require the approval of Congress. These, we were told, would address a number of related issues, ranging from the improvement of the current system used for background checks, to the funding of more counselors and “resource officers” in schools. Most interestingly, at least to me, Obama promised, through executive action, to lift the ban on federal research into gun violence… Yes, apparently, several years ago, at the behest of the NRA, Congress had acted to prevent the federal government from funding research on gun violence. Here, with more on that, is a clip from the fact sheet distributed by the White House this morning.
Conduct research on the causes and prevention of gun violence, including links between video games, media images, and violence: The President is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and scientific agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. It is based on legal analysis that concludes such research is not prohibited by any appropriations language. The CDC will start immediately by assessing existing strategies for preventing gun violence and identifying the most pressing research questions, with the greatest potential public health impact. And the Administration is calling on Congress to provide $10 million for the CDC to conduct further research, including investigating the relationship between video games, media images, and violence.
Better understand how and when firearms are used in violent death: To research gun violence prevention, we also need better data. When firearms are used in homicides or suicides, the National Violent Death Reporting System collects anonymous data, including the type of firearm used, whether the firearm was stored loaded or locked, and details on youth gun access. Congress should invest an additional $20 million to expand this system from the 18 states currently participating to all 50 states, helping Americans better understand how and when firearms are used in a violent death and informing future research and prevention strategies.
Now, here’s the background, from NBC News.
…From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the CDC conducted original, peer-reviewed research into gun violence, including questions such as whether people who had guns in their homes gained protection from the weapons. (The answer, researchers found, was no. Homes with guns had a nearly three times greater risk of homicide and a nearly five times greater risk of suicide than those without, according to a 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.)
But in 1996, the NRA, with the help of Congressional leaders, moved to suppress such information and to block future federal research into gun violence, (Dr. Mark Rosenberg, president of the Task Force for Global Health and director of the CDC’s Center for Injury Prevention and Control from 1994 to 1999) said…
One of the main researchers that the NRA was seeking to shut down was Emory’s Art Kellermann, whose research had shown, among other things, that “a gun kept in the home was 43 times more likely to be involved in the death of a member of the household than to be used in self-defense.”
The following is from NPR:
…Kellermann says the National Rifle Association and other Second Amendment advocates leaned on his then-employer, Emory University, to stop the research. That didn’t work.
So, he says, “they turned to a softer target, which was the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the organization that was funding much of this work. And although gun injury prevention research was never more than a tiny percentage of the CDC’s research budget, it was enough to bring them under the fire of the NRA.”
Lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — held back some money from the CDC and made clear that no federal funds should be used to promote gun control.
Many researchers interpreted that message to mean no public health studies about injuries from weapons.
Then, a few years later, Congress weighed in again, in a slightly different way.
In 2003, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Republican from Kansas, added language to the Justice Department’s annual spending bill. It says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can’t release information used to trace guns involved in crime to researchers and members of the public. It also requires the FBI to destroy records on people approved to buy guns within 24 hours…
How fucking insidious is that?
It’s one thing, in my opinion, to lobby on behalf of gun owners – it’s another to actively restrict data which you know would not only undermine your claims, but show then to be pure fiction. I don’t like it, but I can accept that the NRA is attempting to put armed volunteers in our nations’s schools. I can even accept that they’re willing to appeal to the basest reptilian instincts of their supporters in the hopes of keeping the (highly profitable) status quo, as they did this morning, when they released an utterly offensive ad about Obama’s daughters. It was tasteless and disgusting, but I guess I’ve come to expect that from an organization that would put out a kids’s shooting game just days after blaming the Sandy Hook shootings on video games. What I can’t accept, though, is that these people would try to hide information, in an attempt to keep us from making informed decisions. That, to me, is beyond the pale… and I can’t believe that I hadn’t heard about it until just now.
If you’d rather we not have the information, though, you may be in luck. Word is that Rand Paul has a plan for stopping Obama from implementing these executive actions.
Speaking of this new NRA ad, which accuses Obama of being an “elitist hypocrite” for not trying to get Secret Service protection for every child in America, here it is, followed by the reaction of the panel on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Sadly, I think that this is just the start. Things are going to get a lot uglier, a lot more volatile, and a lot crazier.
Speaking of crazy, I have two more gun-related things to share tonight. First, Glenn Beck’s favorite historian, David Barton, whom I wrote about just yesterday, has come out advocating for the arming of school children. And, second, the Sandy Hook “truther” movement is apparently picking up steam, with more and more people ascribing to the belief that the events were orchestrated by the federal government, and that no one was actually killed. (The people we saw on television apparently weren’t really grieving parents, but “crisis actors” hired by FEMA. The whole thing, it would seem, was nothing more than a morbid government-orchestrated flash mob.) My intention was to write a post about it, but I just stumbled upon an incredible Metafilter piece which pulls together all the pieces, so I don’t have to… You should really check it out… It’s terrifying stuff.