Gun lobby to blame for diminished gun-violence federal research, report says

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Public funding for research into gun violence has dwindled since the mid-1990s, as a result of pressure from the gun lobby, says a new report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

The advocacy group, co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, released the report (.pdf) Jan. 14 to mark one month after the Sandy Hook school shooting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent an average of $2.5 million per year on gun-safety research from 1993 to 1996, but that fell by 95 percent over the next 15 years, the report says. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a law that included a $2.6 million cut to a part of the CDC that had spent that amount on gun-related research the year before.

That provision also forbade the CDC from using its funding to "promote gun control," though the report notes that federal research agencies already may not advocate for political issues.

By 2012, the CDC spent less than $100,000 on gun-related research, and the report says public funding for such research now totals less than $2 million per year, less than 1 percent of the amount for motor-vehicle-safety research.

Because academics depend on public funding for much of their research, the effects of the decline were felt outside the government. Researchers have become less interested in applying for grants for gun-related research, and the number of published studies has diminished, the report says.

The National Institute for Justice, within the Justice Department, has also halted gun-violence research. It sponsored 32 studies on the topic from 1993 to 1999, but zero since 2007, the report says. An NIJ program manager who retired in 2008 told Mayors Against Illegal Guns that the agency was influenced by the political sensitivity of gun issues.

The landscape surrounding guns has changed significantly since the mid-1990s. The computerized background check system has come into existence, gun sales often occur over the Internet, and many states have relaxed their laws for concealed weapons permits. Yet the data that informs gun policy is outdated, the report says.

For more:
- download the report, "Access Denied: How the Gun Lobby is Depriving Police, Policy Makers, and the Public of the Data We Need to Prevent Gun Violence" (.pdf)

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