Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Jay Dickey regrets his legislation to curb gun research

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 8:58 AM

click to enlarge SEES THE LIGHT: Jay Dickey regrets legislation that restricted gun research.
  • SEES THE LIGHT: Jay Dickey regrets legislation that restricted gun research.
Former U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey now says he's sorry about his namesake 1996 legislation that has stifled gun research.

From Huffington Post:

 When he helped pass a restriction of federal funding for gun violence research in 1996, the goal wasn't to be so suffocating, he insisted. But the measure was just that, dampening federal research for years and discouraging researchers from entering the field.

Now, as mass shootings pile up, including last week's killing of nine at a community college in Oregon, Dickey admitted to carrying a sense of responsibility for progress not made.

"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."

The NRA wanted to shut down research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of the rising evidence that gun ownership had a decided impact on public health. The daily toll of accidental shootings bears ample witness.

Jay Dickey rode to Congress, succeeding Rep. Beryl Anthony, after Anthony got knocked off in the Democratic primary by an opponent, Bill McCuen, who depicted Anthony, an avid hunter, as soft on guns because he supported legislation to ban cop-killer bullets.

At the time of the legislation, Dickey and the NRA claimed such research was advocacy, aimed at promoting "sympathy" about gun violence. The result: No research.

He said the law was over-interpreted. Now, he looks at simple advances in highway safety — safety barriers, for example — and wonders what could have been done for guns.

"If we had somehow gotten the research going, we could have somehow found a solution to the gun violence without there being any restrictions on the Second Amendment," Dickey said. "We could have used that all these years to develop the equivalent of that little small fence."

Private research has continued. Gun homicide is the most common type of homicide and gun ownership correlates with gun homicide. (Whatever you do, don't say those GUNS killed anyone, however.)  Guns account for about half of suicides. Do they deter crime?

They found no evidence that states with more households with guns led to timid criminals. In fact, firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least. Firearm robbery increased with every increase in gun ownership except in the very highest quintile of gun-owning states (the difference in that cluster was not statistically significant). Firearm homicide was 2.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least. 

The results do need to be interpreted with caution — this study method proves that more guns are linked to more gun crime and overall homicide, but not that access to guns directly causes this criminal uptick, said study researcher David Hemenway, the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

"This study suggests that it's really hard to find evidence that where there are more guns, there are less crimes, but you can easily find evidence that where there are a lot more guns, there are a lot more gun crimes," Hemenway told Live Science.

You can see why the NRA fears research. Stop research and you stifle production of evidence that argues for reform. And you can see why a solid majority of the U.S. is in favor of sensible gun safety measures — universal background checks, for example, and perhaps research into trigger locks and other means of making guns safer in the home.

Even Jay Dickey gets it.

The article details research efforts and, speaking of correlations, the strong correlation between NRA spending in political races and votes by congressman against gun research, including the measure to prevent doctors from collecting information from patients about guns in the home.

All those guns acquired for the safety of nurse Laurel Harper — a hobby she passed down to her son, Chris Harper Mercer — turned out to have a negative impact last week in Roseburg, Ore. There's no record as yet that she ever used any of her arsenal in self-defense. But her son used them once — offensively.

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