This post originally appeared on AddictingInfo.org.
Sandwiched between a mass shooting at a historically black church in Charleston that killed nine people and a mass shooting that killed at least 14 people and wounded at least 17 more in San Bernardino, a former Republican politician penned a devastating indictment of his own reprehensible involvement in preventing scientists from studying gun violence at the behest of the NRA.
Officially, Former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR) “authored” the 1996 amendment that banned the Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence and how to prevent it, but that’s overselling it a bit. The National Rifle Association wrote the legislation, and Dickey and many of his Republican colleagues were paid sizable campaign contributions to put their names to it. Twenty years and tens of thousands of bullet-ridden bodies later and Dickey has a few regrets.
In a piece written for the Huffington Post, Dickey now says that agreeing to pass the ban was one of the biggest mistakes of his political career – and as a congressman for eight years he’s surely had a few.
“I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time,” Dickey, an Arkansas Republican, told the Huffington Post in an interview. “I have regrets.”
In fact, things have only gotten worse since Dickey’s time in office (he exited in 2000). In 2011, Congress actually extended the ban to the National Institutes of Health, effectively shutting down any scientist dependent on federal grant money (read: most of them) from looking into one of the worst health issues facing the country (read: gun violence). The results were a chilling effect that we still feel today. Guns kill tens of thousands of Americans per year and we know almost nothing about why, how, or what we should do about it.
And it wasn’t as if the problem went away simply because Congress ordered us to stop looking at it. In 2014, America hit a dubious milestone. More young Americans were killed that year by guns than by cars. Scientists predict that trend to continue.
And we know a lot about automobile deaths. In stark difference to guns, the auto industry is heavily regulated, studied, and written about. Each decade brings new safety features, driving laws, and requirements for drivers. The number of deaths from car accidents has plunged as a result.
Which brings us back to Dickey. Speaking with the Huffington Post, he now seems to see the error of his ways.
Back in 1998, I took part in cutting off gun violence research dollars at the federal level because of what was considered a misapplication of the dollars by the CDC. I have recently expressed my regrets that we didn’t continue that research with the provision that nothing shall be done in this project to infringe the rights of gun ownership as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution in the Second Amendment.
Research could have been continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners, in the same fashion that the highway industry continued its research without eliminating the automobile.
The NRA would never have allowed it. In fact, it still doesn’t. Each year, the pro-gun lobbying group dishes out millions of dollars to ensure that the guns they promote aren’t properly researched. For a shady group using shady statistics to justify shady policies that put more guns into more hands, the worst thing in the world is the light. Scientific scrutiny is the enemy. Sadly, Dickey recognizes that unless his peers in Washington suddenly grow a backbone and get the courage to say no to the NRA, there is no hope that anything will change. He does allow himself a brief glimmer of hope that his colleagues will come to their senses.
Even though my opinion and the opinion of my colleague, Dr. Mark Rosenberg, have been spread to media outlets all over our country, there has been only one member of Congress who has expressed any support for this endeavor. I can tell that member that though there is no groundswell of agreement, at least I have not been tarred and feathered and run out of town…yet.
To sum this up, it is my position that somehow or someway we should slowly but methodically fund such research until a solution is reached. Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution.
As Republicans “pray” for the victims of the latest mass shooting in America, his optimism doesn’t appear grounded in reality. Whether for God or for the NRA, the Republican Party seems content to remain on its knees rather than stand up and do something.
Sign up for Our Newsletter
Get updates about the policies and topics that matter the most to you. Progressive news directly to your email.