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Friday, December 21, 2012

Data, Data, When Do We Get Data?


Over the past two decades, the NRA has not only been able to stop gun control laws, but even debate on the subject. The Centers for Disease Control funds research into the causes of death in the United States, including firearms — or at least it used to. In 1996, after various studies funded by the agency found that guns can be dangerous, the gun lobby mobilized to punish the agency. First, Republicans tried to eliminate entirely the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the bureau responsible for the research. When that failed, Rep. Jay Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas, successfully pushed through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget (the amount it had spent on gun research in the previous year) and outlawed research on gun control with a provision that reads: “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.”


Dickey’s clause, which remains in effect today, has had a chilling effect on all scientific research into gun safety, as gun rights advocates view “advocacy” as any research that notices that guns are dangerous. Stephen Teret, who co-directs the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told Salon: “They sent a message and the message was heard loud and clear. People [at the CDC], then and now, know that if they start going down that road, their budget is going to be vulnerable. And the way public agencies work, they know how this works and they’re not going to stick their necks out.”

As Tom L says:

To return to the latest confrontation between the reality of gun violence, and the determination of the GOP not to know what it is inconvenient to understand:  legally enforced ignorance of the implications of the effectively unregulated presence of powerful weaponry throughout the country contributes to events like the Newtown massacre.

To anticipate an objection:  just as you can never tie a specific cigarette to a particular cancer, I cannot say that had we spent more effort really trying to analyze what happens when guns and the accessories that make them yet more deadly are so easily available we would have been able to stop that particular tragedy.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t discover epidemiological truths:  we know that smoking leads directly to an excess burden of cancer deaths among smokers.  You work out the rest…

I was told the other day that if we ban assault weapons, bad people will still get them and there will be this horrible black market and blahblahblah.  I asked if they had any data--using the old lawyer trick of asking a question I already know the answer to--to show that crime went up during the last ban, that there was indeed a black market, etc.

"Of course there's no data on that.  Black market, duh.  Wake up, man!"

No better way to convince me of an argument than having no data and telling me to wake up.  Imma believe the speculation from my own ass more than yours, man.  Placing reasonable bounds on rights is inherently a political question, and right now the politics is on my side, not yours.


PS--Shut up.

December 21, 2012 | Permalink


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