Lift the Limit on Gun Safety Research

In addition to making a push for new gun control regulations, President Obama is eyeing 19 executive orders that would move the ball on gun regulations. The administration will release its list later this week, but if it’s taking suggestions, it should listen to a group of scientists who recently petitioned the Centers for Disease Control to end limits on research into gun safety.

“While mortality rates from almost every major cause of death declined dramatically over the past half century, the homicide rate in America today is almost exactly the same as it was in 1950,” the academics wrote in a letter organized by scholars at the University of Chicago Crime Lab research center.

“Politically-motivated constraints” left the nation “muddling through” a problem that costs American society on the order of $100 billion per year, it said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control has cut firearms safety research by 96 percent since the mid–1990s, according to one estimate. Congress, pushed by the gun lobby, in 1996 put restrictions on CDC funding of gun research into the budget. Restrictions on other agencies were added in later years.

The NRA, the main lobbyist for gun rights, has taken credit for the research halt.

Lifting the ban on research isn’t just good government, it’s good politics—the NRA’s stranglehold on gun discourse is furthered by things like the limit on gun-safety research. Removing it, and exposing the gun lobby to sunlight, can only improve our national discussion on guns.