The Big Lie On Gun Study Funding

AP Photo/Andrew Selsky

For years, we were told the reason there wasn’t more research done on “gun violence” is because they legally couldn’t. See, the law stated that federal dollars couldn’t be used to advocate for gun control, and the CDC decided that meant they couldn’t conduct research on gun violence, probably because they knew what their intentions were and how that would influence results, so they just skipped the research.

And then they blamed it on a law that didn’t actually prevent research.

However, some people bought into that lie. Some still are.

So, when an op-ed tries to play the middle ground yet still repeated this Big Lie, there’s no reason to take the authors seriously.

Murder in the U.S. has become political once again, an issue for both the left and the right. But the U.S. can’t afford to bicker on this.

The nation is ranked in the global murder rate index worse than Pakistan, Sudan and Angola. Homicides in American cities rose an estimated 30% in 2020 and were up another 24% early this year. Los Angeles reported last week that shootings had spiked by half this year.

Fortunately, with decades of empirical data about what works and what doesn’t, we now know how to prevent murder. It turns out that both the liberals and the conservatives were on to something.

There are two broad ideological camps in this political quagmire: the law-and-order camp that supports more policing and tougher law enforcement and abhors gun control, and the criminal justice reform and Black Lives Matter camp that demands safety from police violence and racism and wants guns off the streets.

Republicans vilify Democrats as soft on crime. And Democrats face an internal rift between progressives who demand an end to violent and unfair policing, and those worried that such a focus would not help in the face of growing violent crime. In his response so far, President Biden has walked a fine line: emphasizing that states can use the $350 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to bolster local police departments, but also calling for better enforcement of gun control laws.

So far, so good.

But it’s later when things really go off the rails.

Preventing murder also requires a serious discussion about guns. As one study summarizes it: “More Guns, More Crime.” Pro-gun politicians seem to have known this all along, why else would they have blocked federal funding for research about the relationship between firearms and homicide for 25 years?

Enough already. End the murder politics. Dueling soundbites will lead to a rerun of the 1990s, when Democrats postured to look tough on crime to win elections. We know how that story ended: Then-Sen. Biden wrote a crime bill that ballooned the American prison population without reducing crime.

This time we know better, and we should do better. If we burst out of the ideological bubbles, the U.S. can build an evidence-based strategy to end the killing.

How can we end the politics and burst out of ideological bubbles when the authors are perpetuating one of the biggest political lies in the gun control debate?

Federal funding for research was never blocked. As noted previously, it prevented federal money from being spent to advocate for gun control. The CDC decided that meant they couldn’t research guns, likely because they had preconceived notions of what they would find and were bound and determined to find it.

Gun research continued, some of it funded with federal money, but this was open and honest research that found what it found and reported it as they saw it.

Yet when you uncritically claim that the research was blocked for 25 years, you’re ignoring the actual facts. You’re perpetuating a lie that was popular with anti-gunners and the media, though I repeat myself, yet had no basis in reality. If you can get such a basic fact wrong, why should anyone take anything else said at face value?

Besides, at the end of the day, the discussion on gun control is about more than reducing crime. If that’s all it was about, the debate would look very different. No, in part it’s about restricting the constitutionally protected rights of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms. The rights of individuals need to be protected first and foremost.

It’s not just a political question. It’s a question of civil liberties.

Then again, if the op-ed writers couldn’t even look past the Big Lie on gun research, why would I expect them to really understand what the gun debate is about?