NRA Blocks Data Collection on Public Health Impact of Guns

December 31, 2012

stopsignbulletholesThe U.S. government has invested billions to determine the causes behind traffic fatalities and used that information to make policies that have markedly reduce traffic deaths in the United States. Government research on traffic safety has led to the widespread use of seat belts, front and side impact air bags, child safety seats and other advances that have greatly advanced road safety and reduced vehicular deaths for Americans. The number of deaths annually from firearms in the U.S. closely approximates the number of traffic fatalities — roughly 30,000 deaths per year from each. Yet there has been little research into, or advances made in reducing gun deaths. Why? Because the National Rifle Association (NRA) has long worked behind the scenes to block laws allowing the collection and dissemination of data about the impact of gun ownership on Americans’ safety. The NRA quietly pushed a provision that was inserted into the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) restricting the data doctors can collect from their patients about their ownership and use of firearms. From 1986 and 1996, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control conducted peer-reviewed research into the impact of the presence of guns in people’s homes. While there is a widespread belief among gun owners that the presence of guns in their homes makes them safer, the CDC found the opposite — that having a gun in the home creates a 2.7 times greater risk of homicide and a 4.8 greater risk of suicide for the occupants. The NRA took action to prevent CDC from publicizing these results, and blocked continued funding of government research into the impact of firearms on citizen safety. An NRA congressional lobbyist got an amendment slipped into an appropriations bill cutting $2.6 million from CDC’s budget — the amount CDC had been spending on firearm research annually — along with a clause that says say “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” What’s more, the federal agency responsible for regulating guns in the U.S. has been without a permanent director for six years — by design. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was split off from the U.S. Treasury Department nine years ago and since then Republican elected leaders beholden to the gun lobby have blocked confirmation of a director.

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