Starting in 1996, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention self-imposed a ban on researching firearms deaths in the United States. The federal agency had been cowed by the National Rifle Association and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, among others, who accused it of being a fellow traveler of those pushing for gun control.
Fast forward to December 2012. The world was shocked by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in which 28 people, including 20 first-graders, were shot to death. The following month, then-President Obama issued a direct order to then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to lift this prohibition and “conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it.”
Since then, the CDC has done little to nothing on this issue, even as a 19-year-old in Parkland, Florida, shot and killed 14 former classmates and three staff members a year ago; and closer to home, a 13-year-old boy wounded a classmate and teacher at Noblesville West Middle School.
That’s why we were so impressed with the Howard County Board of Health’s decision in September last year to urge the federal government to begin studying gun violence.
And it’s why we are hopeful the CDC will do so. President Trump signed an omnibus budget bill last March that allows the agency to study gun violence, but no additional funding for such research was authorized.
Cold, hard facts should always be welcome in a debate as serious as gun violence. No one is saying either side can’t have their intractable positions. What we are saying is that without the needed data in hand, we can’t have an intelligent discussion on this issue. The CDC is uniquely qualified to do this research.
“CDC increases the health security of our nation,” reads its mission statement. “As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. To accomplish our mission, CDC conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats, and responds when these arise.”
Do those words mean anything at this point? Isn’t gun violence a “dangerous health threat”?