Pro-Gun vs. Strong Gun Control: This topic is very controversial in the mainstream of America. Pro-gun advocates, staunch defenders of the 2nd amendment, believe that every American should have the fundamental "right to bear arms" and protect themselves. Yet, gun control advocates want stricter gun laws that limit senseless gun violence especially in schools and at risk communities. As the debate rages, what should really be our focus?
Over the past few years, we are witnessing mass causality shootings in places of work, neighborhoods and even in places of education, our schools. People, especially parents, are wondering: Is any place safe especially for our children?
As we contemplate these issues, many of us are asking: Where is the data on gun violence? Where is the information needed for Congress to act? Aren't the mass causality shootings enough for Congress and the President to make a decision about better gun laws? Is there research available for our law makers to make sound decisions about this growing public health epidemic? The answer is: No.
For years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been forbidden to use federal dollars to research gun violence because of the Dickey Amendment. Championed in 1996 by former Arkansas Congressperson Jay Dickey, the Dickey Amendment forbids the CDC from collecting data to advocate for gun control.
Given the recent mass causality shootings over the past few years, many agencies and people including Alex Azar, Secretary Department of Health and Human Services have discussed with lawmakers gun violence with hopes for a reprieve on the gun research ban. Nevertheless, President Trump, on March 23rd, 2018, signed the 1.3 Trillion Dollar Spending Bill which allows a provision for the CDC to study "the causes of gun violence".
However, researchers and public health officials say that there is no actual funding to study gun violence. According to the American Public Health Association Executive Director Dr. Georges Benjamin, "I would have preferred the Dickey language to be removed - strong language that says 'Yes, research is permissible,' and money." Daniel Webster, a researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated, "before, it didn't restrict it to the 'causes,' and "certainly doesn't add anything new that is good."
Despite this minor set back, American people must continue to engage our Congressional leaders. Our goal, in this country, should be to have common sense gun laws that reduces violence and promotes public health research while protecting the 2nd amendment. Regardless of what side of the debate, we must continue to protect and focus on our most valuable assets: our children.
If you own a gun or know someone who does, please follow these Fire Arm Safety guidelines provided by Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Injury Prevention Center:
- Always keep guns unloaded in the home.
- Always keep guns out of sight and reach of children.
- Always keep guns securely locked up.
- Always equip guns with trigger locks and other childproof devices.
- Always keep ammunition locked up and away from guns and sources of heat and electricity.
- Before handling guns, always make sure they are unloaded.
- When handling guns, always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
- Never demonstrate unsafe behavior with guns that you wouldn’t want your child to copy.
- Take personal, long-term responsibility for your children’s supervision as well as for their ongoing education about gun safety.
Is there a gun where your child plays? Over 40% of homes with children have a gun, and many of those guns are left unlocked or loaded. Ask other parents whether they keep guns in the home and where they are located.
"Spending Bill Lets CDC Study Gun Violence; But Researchers Are Skeptical It Will Help", National Public Radio, March 23rd, 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/03/23/596413510/proposed-budget-allows-cdc-to-study-gun-violence-researchers-skeptical
Fire Arms Safety, Injury Prevention Center, Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Lebanon, NH, 2018 https://www.chadkids.org/injury-prevention/injury_center_programs_firearms.html
Written by Dr. Jason T. Hayes, MD, MBA, MSPH, FACP