Report: CDC buried study at behest of gun control advocates

Report: CDC buried study at behest of gun control advocates
(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

For years, we were told that it was wrong to prohibit the CDC from doing research on guns and gun violence. I argued that nothing prohibited them from doing such research, the laws in place just prevented them from anti-gun advocacy and that it was on them to decide unbiased research equated to advocacy.

I don’t think many people really agreed with me, in the grand scheme of things.

Whether or not that was true, though, there is a definite anti-Second Amendment bias at the CDC. We knew this for a while.

Over at The Reload, though, they have a story about just how bad it is.

The Center For Disease Control (CDC) deleted a reference to a study it commissioned after a group of gun-control advocates complained it made passing new restrictions more difficult.

The lobbying campaign spanned months and culminated with a private meeting between CDC officials and three advocates last summer, a collection of emails obtained by The Reload show. Introductions from the White House and Senator Dick Durbin’s (D., Ill.) office helped the advocates reach top officials at the agency after their initial attempt to reach out went unanswered. The advocates focused their complaints on the CDC’s description of its review of studies that estimated defensive gun uses (DGU) happen between 60,000 and 2.5 million times per year in the United States–attacking criminologist Gary Kleck’s work establishing the top end of the range.

“[T]hat 2.5 Million number needs to be killed, buried, dug up, killed again and buried again,” Mark Bryant, one of the attendees, wrote to CDC officials after their meeting. “It is highly misleading, is used out of context and I honestly believe it has zero value – even as an outlier point in honest DGU discussions.”

Bryant, who runs the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), argued Kleck’s estimate has been damaging to the political prospects of passing new gun restrictions and should be eliminated from the CDC’s website.

“[W]hile that very small study by Gary Kleck has been debunked repeatedly by everyone from all sides of this issue [even Kleck] it still remains canon by gun rights folks and their supporting politicians and is used as a blunt instrument against gun safety regulations every time there is a state or federal level hearing,” he wrote in the same email. “Put simply, in the time that study has been published as ‘a CDC Study’ gun violence prevention policy has ground to a halt, in no small part because of the misinformation that small study provided.”

It seems that the CDC didn’t talk to Kleck about removing the reference at all.

Really, go read the entire piece over at The Reload. Author Stephen Gutowski has outdone himself on this one, and if you’re familiar with Gutowski’s body of work, you know that’s saying something.

Now, understand that I don’t have an issue with the CDC removing references to old, outdated studies. That’s kind of how things should work. The best information we have can change as we find new and better ways to study an issue, which means old work gets relegated from the forefront.

But that’s not what happened here. The work was relegated because gun control advocates expressly wanted it removed because it served as a barrier to their agenda.

The CDC did eventually state that they removed the reference because of the broad range, arguing that it muddied the waters more than it helped. Kleck doesn’t buy that explanation, though.

“The justification for keeping any defensive gun use estimates out in order to keep a fact sheet succinct, it’s just another way of saying we can’t afford to even put one sentence in about the most frequent violence-related use of firearms,” he told The Reload. “That the factsheet is not in any way harmed by including this fact.”

He argued the real purpose of removing the estimates and link to further reading on the topic would result in further confusion for people who visit the site–something he said was the goal of the advocates who lobbied for its deletion.

“You can’t understand any significant aspects of the gun-control debate once you eliminate defensive gun use,” he said. “It becomes inexplicable why so many Americans oppose otherwise perfectly reasonable gun-control measurements. It’s because they think it’s gonna lead to prohibition, and they won’t have a gun for self-defense.

Exactly. Removing defensive gun uses from the discussion is the epitome of muddying the water. It allows people to simply pretend these are a non-factor.

One of those is Bryant, whose Gun Violence Archive uses the broadest definition possible for mass shootings, but uses the most narrow definition it can manage for defensive gun uses, all while trying to present himself as unbiased on the topic.

And yes, also while lobbying the CDC to curate the data it provides the public in order to make gun control an easier sell.

These days, people like to say “trust the science.”

Well, I still do trust science. I just find it kind of hard to trust scientists and the administrators they answer to, and this ain’t helping.