The gun control lobby’s golden boy won’t be taking the reins at the ATF, but that doesn’t mean that the activists who were pushing David Chipman’s nomination have given up on the idea of federal agencies pushing for new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. And while I’m sure that activists at Everytown, Moms Demand, Action, Giffords, Brady, and other anti-gun groups still have big plans for using the regulatory power of the ATF to go after gun makers and gun owners, the Centers for Disease Control is emerging as another platform for the gun control lobby to advance its agenda.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky vowed last month to make research into “gun violence prevention” a priority for the agency while claiming that gun owners have nothing to fear from its investigations.
“Generally, the word gun, for those who are worried about research in this area, is followed by the word control, and that’s not what I want to do here,” Walensky told CNN. “I’m not here about gun control. I’m here about preventing gun violence and gun death.”
Now, you might wonder why Walensky would think that “gun violence” would be part of the purview of the Centers for Disease Control, but the answer is simple: the gun control lobby has been pushing for the federal government to treat “gun violence” as a public health crisis rather than a public safety concern, and most Democrats (including the Biden administration) are happy to go along.
But while Walensky and others are trying their best to portray the push for the agency to get involved in “gun violence prevention” research as non-partisan and certainly not based on a gun control ideology, a new report from NPR shows the fallacy of those claims.
We know from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that just over 100 people, on average, are killed by firearms in the U.S. every day. That includes crimes, suicides, gun accidents and shootings involving law enforcement.
But how often is someone injured by a firearm in America? Why, how and what kinds of weapons are used? What are the underlying causes? What’s the relationship between shooter and victim? What evidence-based, scalable programs work best to help prevent criminal shootings, accidents and suicides? On these and other questions, people in public health, criminal justice, policing and academia admit they lack full and adequate answers.
They’re partly in the dark because for more than two decades, the gun lobby and Republican allies in Congress effectively blocked federal funding for firearms research, arguing that such study would undermine the constitutional rights of lawful gun owners.
As a result of that and other factors, experts say, in-depth gun-data collection and sharing in the U.S. is a tangled mess that undermines objective research on programs and policies intended to prevent firearm injury, suicide and criminal violence.
The CDC under Dr. Rochelle Walensky says that will now, finally, start to change.
And for the thousands of Americans affected, survival and recovery from gun injuries look very different for each individual. Here are a few of their stories.
NPR gets it wrong right off the bat. The Dickey Amendment didn’t prohibit the CDC or any other agency from conducting research into “gun violence.” Instead, it stated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” That was always the sticking point, and many gun owners (myself included) believe that the CDC will now indeed start promoting gun control policies under the guise of public health strategies or mandates.
As for the three individuals that NPR highlights, one of them is a Democrat state representative in Arizona who’s proposed fining gun owners who don’t keep their guns and ammunition under lock and key or on their person, universal background checks, and more. Another is an activist with Everytown for Gun Safety in Maryland, while the third is a peer mentor to at-risk youth, while also serving as an activist with Everytown’s “Survivor Network”.
In other words, while Walensky is playing down the idea that the CDC is going to be pushing gun control, it’s the gun control lobby who’s behind the current push for the CDC to take a leading role in “gun violence prevention research.” And the sugar daddy of the gun control lobby is even willing to put his media empire to work in support of his cause. A recent editorial by Michael Bloomberg’s own news outlet ignored Everytown’s role in stumping for the CDC’s new mission, though it played up Walensky’s comments seeking to reassure gun owners.
Few issues divide Americans more than guns, and plenty of Republican lawmakers still cynically conflate research funding with anti-gun activism. But objective research that can shed light on shared goals — such as reducing accidents and suicides — should be able to command support among lawmakers of good faith, whatever their views on gun rights.
In that light, perhaps Walensky’s most important gesture was an explicit outreach to gun owners. “We cannot understand the research of firearm violence, firearm injury, without embracing wholeheartedly the firearm-owning community,” she said. “Come to the table. Join us in the conversation.”
For an issue that has divided the country for too long, that sounds like a good start.
I’m not sure there’s room at the table, given all the gun control activists crowding around it. And frankly, given the growing mistrust in the CDC among the general public thanks to its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely not only gun owners and Second Amendment activists who are skeptical about Walensky’s claims that the agency can study the issue of gun violence without taking a side in the gun control debate. The CDC would be better off getting back to the basics and regaining the trust of the American people, but the gun control lobby and its allies in the Biden administration clearly have other ideas.