Despite rising reports of gun violence including murders, mass murders and suicides, funding for research into gun-inflicted injuries and deaths has steadily declined. It has been reported that the current funding for all gun violence research projects is less than $5 million. To put that in perspective, a grant for one single study in another public health area like autism, cancer or HIV may be twice as much. Public health officials blame the dearth in funding on the National Rifle Association (NRA), which they say has forced Congress to eliminate funding for gun-violence research.
But let’s back up a bit. For years, gun homicides were treated as a criminal justice issue. Gun suicides were treated as a mental health issue. However, in the late 1970s, researchers made a case for treating gun-related deaths as a public health issue, which makes sense. Gun-related homicide and suicide, they pointed out, consistently rank among the nation’s 15 leading causes of death. Gun-inflicted injuries currently rank in the top five killers of people ages 1 to 64 – this is more folks than die as a result of traditional public health targets as influenza or food poisoning.
The campaign to make gun-related injuries and deaths the subject of public health studies gained momentum, and, in 1992, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The Center emphasized research into gun violence.
However, in 1995, the NRA began a campaign against the CDC injury center, claiming the research contained a hidden political agenda against gun ownership. The NRA encouraged lawmakers to eliminate the Center. While that didn’t actually happen, Congress began to divert funds previously earmarked for the Center to other public health programs. Legislators sympathetic to the NRA also inserted language into the budget that specifically restricted CDC injury research funding from going into any programs that might advocate or promote gun control.
Dwindling funding made gun-violence research a shaky career path, discouraging younger researchers from pursuing the study, and driving others out of the field. In addition, those already working in the programs were often threatened with angry emails and even death threats from people who felt their work threatened gun ownership rights. It’s been real easy to sell the myth that “they are going to take your guns!”
The CDC does still conduct some gun-specific research. A paper published by the journal Preventive Medicine in June examined recent gun injury statistics. CDC researchers found deaths from gunfire total about 32,000 a year. Rates of gun murders and unintentional shooting deaths have dropped, but firearm suicides are rising, and currently account for 60 percent of gun deaths. Additionally, nonfatal shooting injuries are at their highest level since 1995.
Researchers say it is nearly impossible to collect information that is critical to understanding gun-related deaths; namely, the exact number, type and distribution of guns, and who owns them, and how people got them. Currently there is no agency that tracks U.S. gun ownership, so there is no way of knowing how many guns are in the United States.
One bright spot appeared in 2013. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it had secured three new funding sources for violence research, including gun-specific programs. But despite initial excitement, progress is still moving at a snail’s pace. The NIH has received 136 applications for research funding. Of that number, NIH has only been able to make nine awards, and only two of those specifically focus on guns. Those two projects will receive about $600,000 in funding – combined.
After each mass shooting incident, there is a brief public outcry. “Why is this happening? What can be done?” And then it seems we are back to business as usual. The NRA is a powerful, rich lobbying organization. Its supporters are vocal and often vitriolic. If the NRA continues to call the shots – pardon the pun – I don’t see how any meaningful research can proceed, and the questions of the American people will continue to go unanswered. And, unfortunately, we are almost guaranteed the questions will be asked again and again.
As I have asked before – repeatedly – when will the American people say enough is enough and demand that Congress take action and enact sensible gun control legislation?
Source: Claims Journal
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.