The New Jersey Law Journal Editorial Board has joined the chorus supporting President Obama's call for Congress to fund studies of gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control. Congress fifteen years ago barred CDC from advocating gun control. That ended studies by the National Institutes of Health. But President Obama has now said that study and advocacy are different - and demanded Congress provide $10 million to CDC for such studies. It is a modest but important beginning. - GWC
Don't Limit Gun Control Research - NJ Law Journal Editorial (c) ALM - all rights reserved
Our national health doesn't match that of other advanced countries. On almost every measure, we lag. Young, middle aged, old, rich, poor — our life expectancy is less than those of similar citizens of other advanced countries. Perhaps most surprising, according to a National Institutes of Health report, Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, "Younger Americans die earlier and live in poorer health than their counterparts in other developed countries, with far higher rates of death from guns, car accidents and drug addiction."
We have made progress through study on prevention of car accidents and have begun to move toward drug treatment rather than incarceration. But on gun violence we continue to see high levels of violent death, regardless of how strict local gun control laws are. Yet the picture is not uniform. We just don't know enough to explain why there are such substantial variations in local rates of gun violence.
It is appalling that Congress, since 1997, has provided that "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control." Although the Affordable Care Act restricts development of gun ownership databases and use of gun possession data for insurance rating purposes, nothing in the act presents any additional obstacle to public health studies.
We are heartened that the White House has faced up to this problem, saying: "There are approximately 30,000 firearm-related homicides and suicides a year, a number large enough to make clear this is a public health crisis. But for years, the CDC and other scientific agencies have been barred by Congress from using funds to 'advocate or promote gun control,' and some members of Congress have claimed this prohibition also bans the CDC from conducting any research on the causes of gun violence. However, research on gun violence is not advocacy. The President is directing the CDC and other research agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence, and the CDC is announcing that they will begin this research."
There is a willful embrace of ignorance by some that continues to shock us. Protection of citizens from violence is among the first obligations of government, yet loose talk about nullification and monarchy comes from the lips of those who should know better. The study of gun violence is a compelling public purpose. We applaud the administration's decision to free the CDC from the paralysis induced by Congressional measures. And we urge the Congress to support the administration's request for $10 million to the CDC for a modest start on the study of the problem which has been frozen for 15 years.
Board chairman Rosemary Alito and board member Peter G. Verniero recused from this editorial.