Firearm Fact-Finding

There is a script that both sides tend to follow after a mass shooting: Democrats immediately begin to advocate for more gun control, while Republicans rush to protect their Second Amendment right to bear arms. However, the issue may not be as black or white as either side makes it out to be. Instead of focusing on a battle of differing ideologies, when it comes to gun control, there should be an increased push for researching its efficacy.

In 1992, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control with the intent of studying and funding research on the prevention of violence. Soon after its creation, the NCIPC funded research that went into the article “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home.” Large amounts of National Rifle Association lobbying lead the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Bill of 1996 to include a rider which stated that none of the CDC’s funding could “be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

Despite only prohibiting research that advocated for gun control, the language of the rider was vague enough to bring government-sponsored research on any and all aspects of firearms to a halt. Currently, only $100,000 out of the CDC’s annual budget of $5.6 billion is spent on gun research, a 96 percent decrease from pre-1996 levels.

Currently, there is not enough research to decisively point out which types of gun control are quantifiably better than others.  Research into any field, gun control included, is never a one-size-fits-all type of product; with so few studies, it is easy to find contradicting results. For example, there are data to show that gun control generally leads to decreases in gun violence. According to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, regions with more guns have more firearm-related deaths, even after controlling for outside factors. On the other hand, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that lasted from 1994 to 2004 banned high-capacity magazines, among other supposedly harmful gun modifications. Yet, a study by the National Institute of Justice found that the ban had little to no impact gun violence levels.

Research in any field holds the undeniable potential to produce results that people do not want or expect. Instead of banning research on gun violence, the government needs to fund gun-related research to refine any legislation it has or may pass in the future. Not only is the conservative approach of denial inappropriate, but so is the liberal call for an immediate reworking of the nation’s gun control laws. Such hasty action may lead to the passing of potentially costly and ineffective legislation. Instead, the government should re-insert itself into the domain of firearm research and end its counterproductive partisan bickering.