As Congress Continues Limits On Gun Research, Scholars Stay Away From It


Gun interests, wary of any possible limits on weaponry, have successfully lobbied for limitations on government research and funding for research on gun violence, and private sources have not filled the breach. Federal funding for gun violence research and data collection remains minuscule, the Associated Press reports. The annual total for gun violence research projects from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control appears to be well under $5 million. A grant for a single study in areas like autism, cancer or HIV can be more than twice that much. There are public health students who want to better understand rising gun-related suicide rates and recent explosions in firearm murders in many cities, and mass murders like the one this month at an Oregon community college, where a gunman killed nine people.

Many young researchers are staying away from the field. Some believe there's little hope Congress will do anything major to reduce gun violence, regardless of what scientists find. The work is stressful. Many who study gun violence report receiving angry emails and death threats from believers in unrestricted gun ownership. Most importantly, there's not enough money. “From a self-preservation standpoint, I think about, is there enough funding to support this kind of work? And there's just not,” said Gregory Tung, who is now an assistant professor at the Colorado School of Public Health in Denver whose emphasis is issues like youth violence and child abuse. Gun-inflicted injuries rank among the top five killers of people ages 1 to 64. In an average year, they account for far more deaths than traditional public health targets like influenza and food poisoning. “The line is: 'If it's not a public health issue, why are so many people dying?' ” said Philip Cook, a Duke University economist who in the 1970s began studying the impact of guns on society.

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