Gun rights advocates often accuse gun control advocates of acting on emotion rather than data. They claim there is insufficient information to warrant firearms restrictions.
But last week a majority of the House of Representatives voted against a proposal aimed at collecting and analyzing data about gun violence.
The bill, which would designate gun-violence research as a National Science Foundation priority in hopes that research could help reduce gun deaths as it has done for smoking and highway mortality, failed 241-177. Democrat James Clyburn was the only representative from South Carolina to support the bill.
Opponents say they don’t trust that the work would be done without bias. They say an earlier study using federal money began with an anti-gun thesis and aimed to prove it, instead of starting out with a blank slate and seeing what the data show.
Well, it does stand to reason if 30,000 people in America die in gun-related incidents, that guns are part of the problem. That doesn’t mean that mitigating the problem would require draconian solutions.
Rather, it makes more sense to authorize research with oversight to ensure it is fair and accurate.
Medical experts have correctly declared gun violence to be a significant public health problem, but without more research, they won’t know how to address the problem.
For example, adequate research has not been done to determine if open carry of firearms makes people safer or puts them at greater risk.
Nor do researchers know the psychology of gun violence or how to stop gun-related homicides, suicides and mass shootings.
Even background checks for gun purchasers are a continuing subject of debate.
The National Rifle Association mindset — that the liberal powers-that-be are out to take away Second Amendment rights — isn’t new.
Indeed, in the mid-1990s Congress effectively blocked any government funding for the study of gun violence when it declared that federally funded research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should not be used to support gun control.
After the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., President Obama called for the CDC to research the causes of gun violence and how to prevent it. But Congress would not provide funding.
It makes sense for laws to be developed based on sound scientific information. No more claiming that people on either side of the issue are merely shooting from the hip.
And failing to search for sound information suggests that Congress doesn’t really want to know if or how gun violence can be abated.
Members of Congress know that researchers don’t make laws. Lawmakers do. They are under no obligation to act at all.
Could it be that they fear what research will suggest? Or is it fear of the political power wielded by the single-issue NRA?
Any reasonable representative of the people should be willing to support research that could offer solutions to the scourge of gun violence in America. Maybe it will indicate that more comprehensive background checks and stricter controls of gun sales could reduce gun violence.
And if that puts members of Congress in the difficult position of trying to justify their intransigence, too bad. There’s no good reason for our elected representatives to opt for ignorance over knowledge.