It is not scientifically clear that gun control laws reduce violence, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that the centers have been criticized for considering injuries from firearms a public health issue.
A CDC task force reviewed 51 studies on whether several types of gun laws prevent violent crimes, suicides or accidents. The laws include bans on specific firearms, restrictions on weapon acquisition, waiting periods, mandatory registration and licensing, concealed weapons regulations, child-access prevention measures and “zero tolerance” for guns in schools.
The task force, said most of the studies are contradictory, incomplete, or poorly designed, and found “insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws.” It supports more research. The task force is composed of 14 academic, business, and government health experts.
Gun ownership advocates, who successfully lobbied Congress to bar the CDC from promoting gun control, applauded the new report. “It’s certainly a quantum leap in the right direction,” said Dr. Edgar Suter of California, chairman of Doctors for Integrity in Policy Research, created in response to CDC-funded gun studies. “It has been as plain as the nose on my face that disarming innocent victims is not a policy that saves lives.”
CDC money for gun studies dropped from $2.6 million in 1995 to $400,000 last year. The agency funded seven of the 51 studies reviewed. “As a result of a dreadful lack of studies, the CDC concludes that they can’t make any conclusions as to the effectiveness of the laws. We agree that more research is needed,” said Peter Hamm of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Violence. The organization is named for Jim Brady, the White House press secretary wounded during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan.
Suter said CDC needs to study the pros of keeping guns as well as the cons. “The real benefit of defensive firearm use is the lives that are saved, injuries that are prevented, property that is saved and medical costs that are eliminated,” he said. Injuries from firearms were the second leading cause of injury deaths in 2000, killing 28,663 people. Of those deaths, 58 percent were suicides; 38 percent were homicides; and 3 percent were accidents.