Editor’s Note: The Lake Geneva Regional News presents “Party Lines,” a monthly discussion of political issues featuring side-by-side guest columnists from the local Democratic and Republican parties. The column below represents one side of this month’s discussion. Click here for the other side.
What is the Dickey Amendment? If you don’t know the answer to this question, you probably won’t be able to answer the question, “Why do we keep seeing mass shootings?”
The Dickey Amendment, passed by Congress in 1996, stipulates that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The amendment was introduced after NRA lobbying in response to a 1993 CDC-funded study that showed that guns in the home were associated with an increased risk of homicide in the home.
This piece of legislation has effectively halted almost all firearms research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the past two decades.
Sadly, the ban is still in effect today, and science cannot be used to study gun violence prevention using federal dollars. In October 2015, Rep. David Price (D-NC) wrote a letter calling on Congress to reject the amendment. One-hundred and 10 out of 188 Democrat House members and not a single Republican signed on. Congress passed the spending bill with the amendment still in it. The gun manufacturer’s lobby still controls Congress.
Following the mass murder of more than 25 elementary school students and educators in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama ordered the CDC to do a new study. The CDC did so, reluctantly. CDC officials said that their interpretation of the law was that the ban was still in effect. They did produce a report, but it was tempered by fear of more funding cuts.
So what does science show us? Non-governmental institutions still do research on gun violence and should direct us on how to take action to “prevent more mass shootings.”
There are more guns in America than people. We have 120.5 civilian guns for every 100 residents. Another way of looking at that: Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms. Yemen comes in a distant second with 52.8 civilian guns per 100 residents.
So, will reducing the number of guns reduce the gun homicide rate? Science does say yes. The federal assault weapon ban of 1994 was an effective tool in reducing the number of weapons in this country. However, it expired in 2004 and after that expiration, the number of assault weapons purchased exploded along with the number of mass shootings.
When economist Richard Florida took a look at gun deaths and other social indicators, he found “that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness didn’t correlate with more gun deaths.” His research did find one correlation: “States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths.” A 2016 review of 130 studies in 10 countries, published in Epidemiologic Reviews, found that “new legal restrictions on owning and purchasing guns tended to be followed by a drop in gun violence.” A study from Israeli researchers found that suicides among Israeli soldiers dropped by 40 percent when the military stopped letting soldiers take their guns home over the weekend.
So, why do we still have mass killings? It is fact that big money controls the political process. Ever since the Citizens United decision, dark money pours into the political process. The gun lobby threatens the politicians, and they do their bidding. The House passed the Background Check Expansion Act with bipartisan support in February. Republican Senate Majority Leader McConnell refuses to even allow a vote on the bill. The NRA has given McConnell $1.2 million dollars. Do you think that money influences his decisions?
Science gives us the answer on how to stop these mass shootings. It is simple. We have weapons of mass destruction everywhere. What part of assault weapon don’t you understand? We spend over $800 billion on defense, but yet we allow 9,537 of our own citizen to be killed by gun violence in 2019.
It is time to stop this insanity. We must speak louder than the gun lobby and stop acting as if these mass shootings are normal.
Steven Doelder of the village of Bloomfield is a member of the Walworth County Democratic Party.