Is the CDC Banned from Researching Gun Control?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

According to our liberal friends, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is banned from researching gun violence, and it’s all thanks to the NRA.

In October 2017, following the massacre at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, the Washington Post ran an article titled “Why gun violence research has been shut down for 20 years.” In it, the author Todd Frankel writes that “In 1996, the Republican-majority Congress threatened to strip funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unless it stopped funding research into firearm injuries and deaths. The National Rifle Association accused the CDC of promoting gun control. As a result, the CDC stopped funding gun-control research.”

What Frankel is referring to is the Dickey Amendment, named after Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey. It was as a result of his amendment that the CDC saw $2.6 million cut from their budget, the exact amount they had spent on gun control efforts. It’s based off this chain of events that we see headlines like:

  • This Senator Wants to Revive Federal Research on Gun Violence, 22 Years After Congress Banned It – Mother Jones
  • Treat gun violence like the public health epidemic it is and lift research ban – The Baltimore Sun
  • The CDC Can’t Fund Gun Violence Research. What if that Changed? – Wired

But here’s the thing – the CDC was never banned from researching gun violence, or gun control, despite the Dickey Amendment. According to The Federalist’s David Harsanyi:

Absolutely nothing in the amendment prohibits the CDC from studying “gun violence,” In response to this inconvenient fact, gun controllers will explain that while there isn’t an outright ban, the Dickey amendment has a “chilling” effect on the study of gun violence. Unlikely is the notion that a $2.6 million cut in funding so horrified the agency that it was rendered powerless to pay for or conduct studies on gun violence. The CDC funding tripled from 1996 to 2010. The CDC’s budget is over six billion dollars today.

I assume that the purpose of this talking point is to suggest that opponents of gun control fear having their beliefs debunked, but when Obama had the CDC study gun violence in 2013 (which you’d think would debunk this bogus narrative in it of itself), it hardly came to the conclusions that Obama wanted. In fact, the study acknowledged that there could be millions of self-defensive gun uses each year, and doesn’t mention gun control once in its discussion of mass public shootings.

That’s hardly the only study out of the CDC that could hardly be considered damning to those favoring gun rights. Back in the 1990s the CDC conducted a series of surveys on self-defensive gun use in 1996, 1997, and 1998, then proceed to never release the findings or publicly acknowledge that they were researching the subject.

The question asked in the CDC survey addressed the use or threatened use of a firearm to deter a crime. “During the last 12 months, have you confronted another person with a firearm, even if you did not fire it, to protect yourself, your property, or someone else?”

Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck recently got access to the surveys, and after reviewing them discovered that they found “in an average year during 1996–1998, 2.46 million U.S. adults used a gun for self-defense.”

At least two of those surveys was conducted in years that liberals claim the CDC was banned from conducting gun research.

Language clarifying that the Dickey Amendment does not prohibit the research of gun violence was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 23rd of this year. Ironically, by the looks of the CDC’s past research, this won’t bode well for those advocating for the Dickey Amendment’s repeal.




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