Congress Really Should Restrict CDC's Gun Violence Research

(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

For years, the CDC said they were prohibited from conducting “gun violence” research because of a law that prohibited them from advocating for gun control.


My argument was that actual research isn’t advocacy and that nothing in the law actually prevented them from conducting non-biased research. It was their own desire to push a narrative and use our tax dollars to fund it that was preventing them from doing so.

Well, the law changed. Suddenly the CDC could, in fact, conduct that same research just the way they wanted to.

But some lawmakers are considering changing the law yet again.

This may be Joe Biden’s Washington, but the US Capitol appears to be, once again, under the firm grip of the gun lobby. With repeated threats of federal government defaults and shutdowns consuming Washington throughout 2023, little attention has been paid to specific agency-by-agency spending proposals, including a House Republican proposal to zero out funding for gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That effort, part of a House appropriations bill, was postponed after Congress passed a short-term extension to fund the federal government into early next year. But that doesn’t mean it won’t return then, with powerful Republican lawmakers painting the CDC’s research as overtly partisan.

“I think it may have a political component, and that’s my concern,” Representative Robert Aderholt, an Alabama Republican, tells WIRED. He’s known as a cardinal on Capitol Hill because he chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, which is tasked with producing the nation’s largest domestic funding measure, including control of the CDC’s budget, each year.

The powerful appropriator isn’t thoroughly versed in the gun violence research his subcommittee is trying to defund, but Aderholt is skeptical anyway. “If it were just honest, innocent research, then I wouldn’t have a problem,” Aderholt says. “But I have some concerns with the way that it’s being handled under this administration.”

Thing is, no one really knows what story the CDC research will tell. It’s only been around for three years after nearly a quarter-century of congressional prohibition under the 1996 Dickey Amendment, which essentially barred the CDC from examining the roots of the uniquely American scourge of gun violence.


The word “essentially” is doing a lot of work in that last paragraph.

Yet I’ll also say I know precisely what the results will say. I know it not because it’s a fact but because there’s been no indication the CDC has any desire to actually increase our understanding when it comes to guns.

First, let’s remember that there has been a ton of research conducting regarding so-called gun violence. It wasn’t banned, even by the CDC’s interpretation of the Dickey Amendment–their read of it just meant other people had to do it.

And, frankly, they did and it turned out to be absolute garbage.

But that wasn’t the CDC’s fault. I’ll be the first to admit that. The problem, however, is what the CDC has done. By their very actions, they’ve killed any hope of convincing many of us that they’re capable of unbiased research.

What I’m referring to is how the CDC removed defensive gun use statistics from their website at the behest of gun control advocates. Why? Because defensive gun use statistics undermined the anti-gun position, so they asked and the CDC obliged.

On that alone, I’m perfectly find seeing the reinstatement of the Dickey Amendment. I’m even find with the newer version explicitly telling them to not conduct any gun violence research. Why? Because it cannot be trusted and they’ve made damn sure it can’t.


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