Show Me the (Research) Money

Alarmed by growing scientific research on the health risks created by the widespread prevalence of guns, the NRA and its Congressional allies stripped all funding for the Center for Disease Control’s gun research budget. They also inserted a provision into the CDC appropriation bills that said “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,” deterring the CDC from providing significant funds to gun research ever since. As a result, the New York Times reports, “the amount of money available today for studying the impact of firearms is a fraction of what it was in the mid-1990s, and the number of scientists toiling in the field has dwindled to just a handful as a result.” This has meant in practice that “there is no scientific consensus on the best approach to limiting gun violence, and the N.R.A. is blocking work that might well lead to such a consensus.”

Biden: The White House Will Fight NRA’s War On Science” Zack Beauchamp

We know from other areas– evolution and climate change would have to top the list– that the American right is profoundly anti-intellectual and anti-science. They don’t want public funding of science (unless it supports corporate profit) and when science tells them something they don’t want to hear, they start disinformation campaigns. They force religious dogma– creationism– into the school textbooks and they pretend to debunk climate science.

The damage this has done to our intellectual life is probably best measured by the damage to our coastlines, amplified by the public’s unwillingness to support measures that might slow down the global rise in temperature. We are more ignorant, as a culture, than we ought to be and we will be paying the price for decades. I suppose that I knew this but it turns out the right has long used the same tactics in the science of gun violence.

Here, the enforced ignorance, sponsored by the right, has cost us in the sorts of scientific knowledge we might have used to prevent the recent gun massacres. It also makes effective gun control measures now much less effective, which I suppose is the point. I think that restoring this research has to be high on the agenda if we have any hope of real change. It ought to be obvious that We can’t prevent gun violence unless we understand it.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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