The IOM workshop did allow a few voices from the pro-gun-rights side. The NRA’s John Frazer gently reminded the assembled tweak-prone scientists that cost-benefit analyses of gun ownership are of limited value, since gun ownership is a fundamental right.
Independence Institute senior fellow and former NRA research director Paul Blackman recalled the CDC’s previous gun research as “not quite textbook epidemiology.” He also called for research priorities to shift from the minutiae of guns to the real problem — violent crime.
Any claims to objectivity were severely compromised by the absence of John Lott, the foremost researcher of the effects of gun ownership on crime. Lott has a long and distinguished academic career in firearm research, but he was not invited. It is not surprising that a group of academics who view guns as a modern scourge would disdain any contribution by Lott.
Overall, the workshop reflected the presidential mandate to restart the CDC gun-research machine: It was business as usual after a 16-year hiatus. The conference’s leaders brought to the meeting their academic’s jaundiced view of guns as a dangerous virus to be studied with a view toward its control. Will Congress step in to enforce the law it wrote 16 years ago? If not, the CDC will work again to, in the words of former CDC gun research director Mark Rosenberg, persuade Americans to view guns as “dirty, deadly – and banned.”
— Timothy Wheeler, M.D., is director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.