Compared to other wealthy nations around the world, the rate of gun deaths in the U.S. is pretty off the charts. So why isn’t there more government-funded research about the problem, the way there is for other major public health crises? It all comes down to politics.
As political issues go, gun control is definitely a doozie. Few topics get Americans as riled up. But no matter where you stand, most of us can at least agree on this: that gun violence claims the lives of too many innocent people in this country, and actions should be taken to reduce the number of people killed.
What those actions should be, though, is where things get murky. Gun rights advocates argue that owning a gun is not only a fundamental constitutional right, it’s also essential for protection. The more armed, law-abiding citizens there are, the safer we’ll be. But those pushing for stricter gun control insist that more guns inevitably lead to more violence, and the best way to tackle the issue is by restricting access to firearms.
So what’s the answer? It is tougher gun laws? Is it arming more teachers? Part of the problem is there’s just not enough research on the issue to come up with definitive solutions for how to most effectively deal the problem.
What do public health researchers want to know more about?
A lot! Public health researchers are interested in studying everything from where illegally-owned guns come to how to better prevent gun They say that a better understanding of the issue will help save lives in the long run, much like it has with automobile fatalities.
So why aren’t they studying the issue?
Part of the problem is that there’s hardly any government funding to study the issue. Since 1996, Congress has essentially blocked agencies like the CDC from doing any substantive gun-related research, and that’s the result of intense lobbying efforts from major gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.
Why don’t these groups want the CDC to research gun violence?
Gun rights groups argue that most public health researchers interested in studying the issue have a clear anti-gun agenda, and a track record of conducting biased studies to justify more restrictive gun laws that infringe on 2nd Amendment rights.