Should US study gun violence as a public health hazard? No

The following op-ed originally appeared in the Columbus Dispatch. Republished with permission of author.

Focus on enforcing laws, not agenda-driven research

Decades ago, gun-control advocates spoke honestly about their motives. They openly disputed that the Second Amendment affirmed the right to own a gun, and said their goal was to make guns illegal, create a federal database of guns and gun owners, mandate licensing, and limit the sale and ownership of guns in every way possible. Even the names of their organizations were blatant, such as “Handgun Control, Inc.”

But after years of alienating millions of law-abiding Americans and suffering withering legislative defeats, gun-control advocates began changing their language and their tactics. Now they assure us that they respect the rights of gun owners and claim that their goals are about public health and safety. Their organizations have non-threatening names such as “Everytown for Gun Safety.”

Instead of trying to hammer gun owners with draconian legislation, they now seek to pick away at gun rights a little at a time. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, they hope to convince us they pose no threat.

They say they just want to have a “conversation” about guns and pass a few little “common-sense” laws. They even slyly claim that most gun owners themselves agree with them.

One of their more nefarious tactics has been to push for government-sponsored research into gun violence in the hope that they can sway public opinion. It’s a clever idea. Because what is more convincing than science? Trouble is, what they really want is not objective science, but taxpayer-funded advocacy.

Why do I think this? Because those behind this idea include some of the most rabid anti-gun activists, such as billionaire Michael Bloomberg and the affiliated web of gun-control organizations he sponsors. In addition, this isn’t a new tactic. We’ve seen it before.

Look back at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the 1990s. Officials in this government agency brazenly supported gun bans and spent millions of public dollars for so-called research to support their agenda. One of the lead CDC researchers was quoted saying, “We’re going to systematically build the case that owning firearms causes deaths.”

Others spoke even more bluntly about research intended to “convince Americans that guns are, first and foremost, a public health menace” and to “form a public health model to work toward changing society’s attitudes towards guns so that it becomes socially unacceptable for private citizens to have guns.”

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that I or any gun owner distrusts true science. Scientific research is at the very foundation of modern society, giving us a wealth of modern conveniences, medical breakthroughs, technological miracles, and a greater depth of understanding of the world around us.

But true science is about following the data, not manipulating data to support a predetermined outcome. So when the activism posing as “research” got out of control, Congress stepped in with a rider to the 1996 Omnibus bill to forbid the CDC from wasting taxpayer dollars. It said, in part, that “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.”

That’s why Buckeye Firearms Association and most gun owners distrust the call for government-funded research from gun-control organizations. It’s not that we’re afraid of facts. We love facts.

We have plenty of facts already, and they show us that American gun owners are overwhelmingly law-abiding, that we have plenty of gun laws on the books right now, and that we should focus on enforcing those laws against actual criminals instead of looking for ever more creative ways to infringe on the rights of everyday gun owners with bogus, agenda-driven research.

Dean Rieck is executive director of Buckeye Firearms Association at www.BuckeyeFirearms.org.

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