Government Scientists Aren't Even Allowed to Study Gun Violence – The Reason Is Disturbing

The ban brings to light a bigger issue. 

On the Wednesday of the shooting in San Bernardino, California, only a few hours before the event took place, doctors went to Capitol Hill asking Congress to end the ban on gun violence research. They presented a petition signed by over 2,000 doctors nationwide, protesting a 1996 ban that prevents the Center For Disease Control from studying gun violence.

The ban was made after a CDC-funded study revealed that having a gun in the home increases the likelihood of homicide and suicide. The NRA convinced Congress that the CDC was using its power to advocate gun control, and Congress quickly cut funding for gun-related research. It wasn’t exactly a ban on all research, per se, but the amendment was worded in such a confusing and vague way that no one knew for certain what was permitted. This created a climate of fear and intimidation with CDC researchers, where “no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency's funding to find out” if they could study gun violence. But why would the CDC want to study gun violence, anyway?

Freakanomics author Stephen J. Dubner explains why this is such a problem:

The “disease” in Center for Disease Control is a slight misnomer. The CDC exists, as per its website, “to protect America from health, safety and security threats ... whether human error or deliberate attack,” and “conducts critical science” as a response to health threats. That can be everything from Ebola to car safety, anything that could be potentially lethal to Americans that isn’t naturally occurring. CDC research has helped states with seatbelt laws and has done intensive research on tobacco. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner evidently does not know what this organization does (or he was just being facetious). He has said, “The CDC is there to look at diseases ... a gun is not a disease. Guns don’t kill people, people do.” Cars are also not disease, nor are cigarettes, and both are equally unlikely to kill people on their own. Yet the CDC is permitted to study their inherent health and safety risks.

Emotions are intense on this topic, as well they should be. We’re talking about an issue that involves about 300,000 deaths in the past decade, and how we reconcile that with certain rights. There’s not an easy answer; it’s not black and white. Still, how is it that tensions are so high we can’t allow research to be done by a non-partisan organization that is, by all accounts, purely concerned about public safety?

What struck me as most profoundly disturbing about the ban wasn’t that it happened — if elected officials who are chosen by the people make a decision they feel is in the best interest of the people, we have to live with that even if we disagree. But the chilling truth is that a lobbyist organization could have this type of influence over Congress. They aren’t elected by the American public, and yet they have control over our government. Their power resulted in a ban that prevents us from educating ourselves about ourselves, our country, and any risks that guns might present. The hashtag #endtheban is trending, but is it possible that our congressmen and congresswomen could be more intimidated by their constituents than whichever lobbyist has the most muscle? It’s an issue about guns, yes, but it also brings to light an equally big issue about who is really making laws on Capitol Hill.



How getting in sync with your partner can lead to increased intimacy and sexual desire

Researchers discover a link between nonverbal synchronization and relationship success.

Sex & Relationships
  • Scientists say coordinating movements leads to increased intimacy and sexual desire in a couple.
  • The improved rapport and empathy was also observed in people who didn't know each other.
  • Non-verbal clues are very important in the development stages of a relationship.
Keep reading Show less

How humans evolved to live in the cold

Humans evolved to live in the cold through a number of environmental and genetic factors.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Surprising Science
  • According to some relatively new research, many of our early human cousins preceded Homo sapien migrations north by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
  • Cross-breeding with other ancient hominids gave some subsets of human population the genes to contend and thrive in colder and harsher climates.
  • Behavioral and dietary changes also helped humans adapt to cold climates.
Keep reading Show less

Stan Lee, Marvel co-creator, is dead at 95

The comics titan worked for more than half a century to revolutionize and add nuance to the comics industry, and he built a vast community of fans along the way.

(Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Lee died shortly after being rushed to an L.A. hospital. He had been struggling with multiple illnesses over the past year, reports indicate.
  • Since the 1950s, Lee has been one of the most influential figures in comics, helping to popularize heroes that expressed a level of nuance and self-doubt previously unseen in the industry.
  • Lee, who's later years were marked by some financial and legal tumult, is survived by his daughter, Joan Celia "J.C." Lee.
Keep reading Show less