Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NRA anti-science

Scientific American in "Ready. Aim. Investigate" in the March 2013 edition took note of the NRA's efforts to suppress research on the negative health effects of gun proliferation:

... the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) has been scandalously successful in suppressing public safety research into guns. The problems began when investigators funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that having a gun in the home tripled the chance that a family member would get shot. Outraged that reality was not falling into line with presuppositions, then representative Jay Dickey of Arkansas added language to federal law in 1996 that barred the CDC from conducting research that might be used "to advocate or promote gun control." This deliberately vague wording, coupled with a campaign of harassment of researchers, effectively halted federally funded gun safety research.
This is a great example of how the political power provided by money actually influences the course of science, how it is developed, what kind of research is done, how it is applied. And in this case, the influence is directed toward narrow commercial ends.

At least President Obama found a way to take direction action on this:

In January, President Barack Obama instructed the CDC to resume studying the causes and prevention of gun violence. He also asked for $10 million to support gun safety research at the CDC - a request that Congress must pass. But these measures are not enough. If history is any guide, the NRA will attempt to impede these new investigations. Doctors, scientists and ordinary citizens will have to keep up the pressure to protect research (and researchers) from political meddling. [my emphasis]
We shouldn't let Obama off the hook for direct actions he can take under Executive power.

But what can be done by direct Executive power can be ended by Executive decision. Or by Congressional action. Aside from the fact that Obama is notoriously timid in sticking by liberal decisions that play in some way into the "culture war," as gun proliferation does, good Executive actions don't end the need for good legislation.

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