Tags: cdc | gun | control | bell

Forbes Columnist: Oppose Obama's Funding of CDC for Gun Control

Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013 12:43 PM

By Cyrus Afzali

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A Forbes columnist Tuesday attacked President Barack Obama’s call to have the Centers for Disease Control investigate the causes of gun violence and potential ways to control it.

Larry Bell writes that President Obama is using the “public health crisis” label to restrict Second Amendment protections. In doing so, he’s attempting to follow former President Bill Clinton, who used similar tactics to build support for gun control laws, using the argument that guns were linked to a “public disease.”

Bell points out that the CDC had previously funded studies on gun control violence, although such funding was stopped 17 years ago when Congress removed $2.6 million that was to fund studies for gun research, charging that the research was driven by “anti-gun prejudice.” Instead, that money was designated to fund research on traumatic brain injuries.

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Bell writes that ending the gun violence research ban was sound policy because virtually all of the studies the CDC had previously funded since 1985 had recommended stricter gun control laws. Bell attributes that to a goal of the U.S. Public Health Service, the CDC’s parent agency, which has made it a priority “to reduce the number of handguns in private ownership,” starting with a 25 percent reduction by 2000.

Bell agrees with sociologist David Bordura and epidemiologist David Cowan, who have accused writers of public health literature on guns of promoting “advocacy based upon political beliefs rather than scientific fact.” The two were critical of the fact that information in studies is generally derived from medical or public health researchers, rather than criminologists or sociologists.

Bell said the major issue with treating gun violence as a public health issue lies in the fact that it equates gun violence with a disease, rather than examining mental health and sociological reasons behind violent behavior.

Bell also points to a two-year independent study conducted by the CDC that showed insufficient evidence that prohibitions on specific firearms or ammunition; gun registration; concealed-weapons carry; and zero tolerance for firearms in schools were effective in preventing violence.

Bell concludes by saying that while CDC financing of gun violence research is still ongoing, it is limited to situations where firearms are treated as only part of a broader problem. The CDC also asks any researchers who receive government funding to alert the agency before publishing stories related to firearms. The CDC also has been supplying those studies to the National Rifle Association for its review as well.

This change in CDC policy has resulted in a sharp decline in gun-related studies, which is not pleasing to some university researchers. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California Davis, whose CDC funding was cut in 1996, told The New York Times last year that the NRA and its Congressional allies were responsible. However, Bell believes Second Amendment proponents should applaud the fact that the CDC has been removed from gun control policy.

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