Thursday, December 3, 2015

We Don't Know What We're Dealing With

It's pretty simple: to fix a problem you have to understand it.

I can't say I've run across anyone who thinks mass shootings are a good idea. I can say I've heard an enormous range of opinions on what to do about them, ranging from "nothing" to "close mosques." Would any of those work to reduce the chance of random death by gunfire? Who the hell knows - research, the kind of thing that would actually answer questions about mass shootings - has been discouraged by law since 1998.

It's time for that to change. The Dickey amendment, which prohibits federal funding of any research that might lead to gun laws, must go. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the National Institutes of Health must be given permission and funding to figure out why 4 or more people are wounded or killed in gun violence events every day in America.
This ban, supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), has effectively silenced researchers at both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) for conducting any comprehensive studies on what causes violence — and what can be done to prevent it — since 1998. As expected, it’s left public health experts and policymakers with little to lean on as they attempt to craft new legislation to help quell the fatal trend.
There's no reason to treat this carnage as inevitable. There's plenty of reason to treat it as a public health problem. We know how to deal with public health problems. We recently saw dozens of Chipotle Grill restaurants closed because of diarrhea, for pity's sake. Multiple homicide should rate at least the same level of attention.

The Dickey amendment has to go. Research has to begin. Answers have to be found.

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