By Jesse Singal, Science of Us, New York magazine, 12/23/15
If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to better understand how seat belts help save lives on the road, or the rate at which drug-poisoning deaths kill Americans, or how lead in toys can threaten kids’ health, it’s very well-positioned to do so. After all, the CDC has the broad, vital mandate of “protect[ing] America from health, safety and security threats,” and it’s got an annual budget of $7 billion to work with. It doesn’t just study diseases — it studies any and all threats to human life and health.
But when it comes to what is, statistically, one of the most important public-health threats in the country — guns — this powerful institution is effectively impotent. That’s because the NRA decided that the CDC shouldn’t be allowed to fund gun research, and successfully bullied Congress into codifying this sentiment into law. The American Psychological Association recounts the story: In 1996 the NRA, furious about a 1993 New England Journal of Medicine article on the risks of gun ownership, successfully pushed for the passage of a budget amendment that yanked $2.6 million from the CDC — exactly what it had been spending on gun research — and banned the agency from disbursing any funds toward research that could be construed as supporting gun control. …
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