Monday, June 20, 2016

Teaching your students about the de facto ban on federally funded gun research

Organizations have frequently tried to shut down/manipulate data for their own ends.

Big tobacco and lung cancer and addiction research. The National Football League and Chronic Traumatic Encephaly.

And for the last 20 years, the National Riffle Association has successfully blocked funding for research investigating public safety and gun ownership.

Essentially, the NRA has concentrated on eliminating funding at the CDC for research related to better understanding how guns hurt people. It started in 1996 with the Dickey Amendment and no one has been willing to fight to bring back funding.

The APA wrote a piece on this in 2013 that summarizes the issue.

In the wake of the shooting in Orlando, NPR did a story explaining how the American Medical Association is trying to change the rules governing gun research and the L.A. times published this column.

I think this precedence is unfortunate from both sides of the gun debate. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. I've been to the shooting range. I like deer jerky. There were free gun safety classes offered at my junior high school and I know plenty of nice, safe people who own guns and some that even hunt so their families actually have enough food.

Is proper gun safety transmitted as a social norm within families? Are their differences in gun behaviors between people who hunt versus purchase guns purely for personal safety?

What about the mental health aspect of gun violence? Have certain municipalities succeed in keeping suicide by gun rates low? What about state-level screenings to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill? What works?

Maybe it really is the case that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. But show us the data.

How to use in class?

-By stopping the money, the research has stopped. This may be useful as a way of teaching your advanced undergraduates and graduate students the importance of the flow soft money in research.

-Contextualize this research by adding in the stories of how the tobacco industry and the NFL have tried to manipulate/stop research to hit home to your students the importance of research as a tool in setting public policy.

-Research can be politicized. We should be weary of where the money is coming from, be that money to sponsor research or political donations to stop research.

-Research can change our government. Research can improve the world by providing more information when making very important governance decisions.

Also, while not directly related to the issue of funding manipulation, I like this video which explain the complexity of gun issues in the US. It uses A LOT of data to illustrate the problems we must solve.