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Sun Jan 27, 2013, 01:41 PM

NYT: What We Donít Know Is Killing Us [View all]

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/opinion/sunday/what-we-dont-know-is-killing-us.html?_r=0

What We Donít Know Is Killing Us
Published: January 26, 2013


In one of the 23 executive orders on gun control signed this month, President Obama instructed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal science agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. He called on Congress to aid that effort by providing $10 million for the C.D.C. in the next budget round and $20 million to expand the federal reporting system on violent deaths to all 50 states, from the current 18.

That Mr. Obama had to make such a decree at all is a measure of the power of the gun lobby, which has effectively shut down government-financed research on gun violence for 17 years. Research on guns is crucial to any long-term effort to reduce death from guns. In other words, treat gun violence as a public health issue.

But that is precisely what the National Rifle Association and other opponents of firearms regulation do not want. In the absence of reliable data and data-driven policy recommendations, talk about guns inevitably lurches into the unknown, allowing abstractions, propaganda and ideology to fill the void and thwart change.

snip//

But we need more data to formulate, analyze and evaluate policy to focus on what works and to refine or reject what does not. How many guns are stolen? How do guns first get diverted into illegal hands? How many murderers would have passed todayís background checks? What percentage of criminal gun traces are accounted for by, say, the top 5 percent of gun dealers? How many households possess firearms: is it one-third as some surveys suggest, or one-half?

The gun lobby is likely to claim that any federally financed gun research, per se, is banned by law, a charge that would force debate of whether evidence-based policy recommendations are tantamount to lobbying. Or the C.D.C. may choose to focus on data collection and leave the policy recommendations to outside researchers. That would be a sorry situation for government scientists, but an improvement over the status quo.

It is obvious that gun violence is a public health threat. A letter this month to Vice President Joseph Biden Jr.ís gun violence commission from more than 100 researchers in public health and related fields pointed out that mortality rates from almost every major cause of death have declined drastically over the past half century. Motor vehicle deaths per mile driven in America have fallen by more than 80 percent. But the homicide rate in the United States, driven by guns, is almost exactly the same as it was in 1950.

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Reply NYT: What We Donít Know Is Killing Us [View all]
babylonsister Jan 2013 OP
ProgressiveProfessor Jan 2013 #1
dkf Jan 2013 #2
Schema Thing Jan 2013 #3
rgbecker Jan 2013 #4
dkf Jan 2013 #5
Odin2005 Jan 2013 #6
spin Jan 2013 #7
Octafish Jan 2013 #8