The NRA has been front and center these last few months making a grand litany of statements, proposing ‘solutions’ to gun violence that always involve more guns. They’ve been blaming video games, welfare mothers, cultural decay and lousy therapy for the thousands of gun deaths each year, generally making it clear that their concerns lie more with their cozy relationship with gun manufactures and rabid gun zealots than the lives and concerns of the rest of America. Now it’s been discovered that they’ve put their considerable money where their mouth is in even more insidious ways than previously known.
Professor Susan Douglas of the University of Michigan reports in “NRA: No Research Allowed” that the organization has not only actively lobbied Congress over the years to suppress research on gun control and how best to limit gun related deaths and injuries, but their efforts have met with measurable success:
Since 1996, according to one estimate, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has slashed firearms safety research by 96 percent. There was actual language in the CDC’s budget that said none of its funds could be used to “advocate or promote gun control,” and similar restrictions were imposed on research supported by other federal health agencies. The NRA deemed research on the relationship between teens, alcohol consumption and gun use, as well as the impact of gun storage practices, as “junk science studies.” [Emphasis added.]
Junk science studies. While nothing about the NRA would surprise me at this point, and statements made by both their president and CEO have been stunning in their stupidity (“guns are cool,” according to President David Keene), the concrete reality that they frame the study of gun use, gun storage, alcohol consumption and teens as “junk science” is profoundly disturbing, certainly in light of incidents such as Columbine and Newtown, in particular. What is all the more disturbing is that Congress has dropped to its knees over the years in service to the self-serving demands of this advocacy group. When did Congress become the whore of the gun lobby?
According to Professor Douglas, the genesis of the NRA’s pique with this “junk science” is a 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine by Arthur Kellermann et al. that took on the equation of “a gun in the home keeps one safer” and debunked it thoroughly:
The study showed that having a gun in your home increased the risk of one family member shooting another by almost threefold, compared to homes without a gun. The risk of suicide was nearly five times greater.
Having a gun in your home, in other words, “doesn’t convey protection.” It actually puts you and your family at greater risk. Indeed, from 1985 until 1996, the CDC funded a variety of studies all leading to the conclusion that stricter gun control was a public health priority. This was not good news for the NRA, so they succeeded in making sure such studies rarely saw the light of day. According to The Huffington Post, the NRA has spent over $28 million on lobbying since 1998, becoming one of the most feared and influential lobbies. [Source. Emphasis added]
This is stunning to consider, particularly when it’s followed by information gleaned from a recent Texas A&M University study that found that homicide rates actually increased 7 to 9 percent in states with “stand your ground” laws, with no deterrence found. How does that not shake up those who believe so firmly that “the gun owner has the advantage”?
It doesn’t shake them up because facts are not to be confused with profit, zealotry, and misguided belief. If there’s anything I’ve learned in writing about and debating guns and gun violence, it’s that gun zealots, like cult members who refuse to see truth when belief has been so firmly ingrained (most call that brainwashing), are unmoved by facts and statistics that contradict their dogma, their doctrine. The rest of us, however, find facts support the kind of gun controls most reasonable people support, even the majority of NRA members (one must not confuse the myopia of the NRA leadership with the rank and file members, most of whom support better gun control laws.)
But beyond rhetoric is the cold, hard fact that necessary and life-saving research has literally been suppressed by the efforts of the NRA and one has to question: how was that allowed? What corruption and moral equivalency led to decisions that likely contributed to the deaths of many via guns?
Professor Douglas compares the scenario with the NRA to a similar one related to safety research for the auto industry, positing that if their research had been suppressed in kind, we would not now have seat beats, air bags, child restraints and motorcycle helmets. These safety regulations are all the result of research done and have led to the saving of approximately 366,000 lives between 1975 and 2009, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Likewise with Big Tobacco. Despite the attempt of companies like Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds to mislead Congress, stymie research, and deny the addictive and cancer-causing properties of cigarettes, research was done and the knowledge gleaned from that research about the health risks of cigarettes has led to tremendous changes in how public smoking is controlled and limited, saving lives and benefiting millions. (In 1954, 45 percent of Americans said they smoked. In 2011; only 19 percent. Source)
So what about the gun industry? Are we to stand by and let the greed of the NRA distort facts on one hand, on the other, buy influence in government with the deep-pocketed funds of gun manufacturers, efforts all designed to suppress necessary and life saving research?
Luckily we have a president currently in the White House who is unbowed by the pressure of the NRA and has taken a strong stand on new laws and more effective enforcement. He has pushed aside lobbying efforts and, instead, directed the CDC and other federal agencies to move forward in conducting their own research, as well as sponsoring the research of others on guns, gun violence, and gun safety. Professor Douglas, however, makes wise warning regarding this move:
“Of course there will be a massive fight over gun control. And expect to see new ‘research,’ funded by innocuous-sounding groups themselves funded by the NRA, showing that gun control has zero effect on gun violence. After all, as Bloomberg recently reported, studies claiming to show no negative consequences of fracking—the process of fracturing shale to release the natural gas it contains—have been often funded by the natural gas industry itself.
“But let’s keep Big Tobacco in mind. From the 1950s through the 1970s, they were a hugely powerful lobby, ruthless and widely feared. Then one day the public noticed the emperor had no clothes. It will take time, but that is exactly what can happen when we expose the naked lies of the NRA and the weapons traffickers who fund them.” [Source]
I appreciate the image of the Emperor with no clothes. I’ve used it often myself in regards to the smoke, mirrors, waving of arms, and loud deflection of facts and reason as related to this debate. The gun lobby, Second Amendment zealots, and the NRA are beginning to sound as hollow, predictable and delusional as the butt-naked Emperor; it’s time those who’ve been nodding and smiling in blind agreement take a deep breath, shake off the cloak of distortion, and step up to acknowledge truth. From there we can hopefully work together, those of us on all sides of the issue, to create with laws, regulations, and enforcement measures that not only work, but are implemented and embraced as assurance to all – gun owners and others – that we can and must create a safer world.