IW: Gun Lobby Suppresses Information

Why we don’t get answers to common-sense questions about firearms.

Comments (6)
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fifteen thousand guns a year are stolen from retailers in the U.S. The problem of gun theft and inventory security in gun stores was discussed in this column in “Guns in the Wrong Hands” (January 17, 2013).

That problem isn’t just accidental. The gun industry has engaged in strenuous and successful lobbying to keep secret several kinds of information about guns, their owners and their sellers.

To understand what’s going on, you have to go back to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which required retailers to collect and bank information about people who bought guns at their stores. Years later, an academic study of this information, which was then public record, found that a preponderance of guns used in crimes could be traced to a very small number of gun shops. Under the Clinton administration, intensive inspections of these stores showed that many failed to keep track of their merchandise, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) pushed to force dealers to inventory their stock regularly so as to keep the agency aware of guns that went missing.

Claiming that such recordkeeping would amount to a “national gun registry,” the industry opposed the idea. Today, under the Tiahrt Amendments, passed in 2003, the ATF can’t require such inventories. Furthermore, under the amendments—which have been vigorously opposed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police—information about customers whose credentials are clean enough to allow them to buy guns must be destroyed within 24 hours.

Among the results of the gun industry’s attack on the 1968 law as explained by the Washington Post in 2010: “... investigators cannot reveal federal firearms tracing information that shows how often a dealer sells guns that end up seized in crimes. The law effectively shields retailers from lawsuits, academic study and public scrutiny. It also keeps the spotlight off the relationship between rogue gun dealers and the black market in firearms.”

The gun industry’s friends in Congress also undermined the public’s ability to learn about the results of gun use by taking away funding from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, a part of the Centers for Disease Control.

In the past, a few million dollars a year went to the Center for research focusing on firearms and their role in injuries and fatalities. Then in 1993, the Center sponsored a study that found that a “gun kept in the home is far more likely to be involved in the death of a family member of the household than it is to be used to kill in self-defense”—a point that attacked one of the gun industry’s most persuasive selling points.

Three years later, a Republican congressman got an amendment passed that reduced the CDC’s funding by $2.6 million, exactly the amount that had formerly been allocated for firearms research. Later the funding was restored, but with a proviso that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

But does studying various aspects of gun safety equate to advocating gun control? Has anyone ever suggested that the CDC’s safety studies of cars, batteries or toys amounted to arguments for banning cars, batteries or toys?

The prohibition against promoting gun control didn’t prohibit studies of the role of guns in injuries, but, combined with the earlier removal of funding, it produced a chilling effect. Since 1996, no CDC studies have looked at detailed issues related to gun availability and use within a public health framework.

“In the wake of the shootings in Tucson,” the New York Times pointed out in 2011, “the familiar questions inevitably resurfaced: Are communities where more people carry guns safer or less safe? Does the availability of high-capacity magazines increase deaths? Do more rigorous background checks make a difference?

“The reality is that even these and other basic questions cannot be fully answered, because not enough research has been done. And there’s a reason for that... the influence of the National Rife Association has all but choked off funds for such work.”

After the Newtown massacre, such basic questions need answers even more urgently.•

Comments (6)
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Educate yourself on the 2nd amendment as well as its origin and inspiration. We have a problem in this country in the fact that we are so far removed from an oppressive government that we no longer appreciate the safeguards put in place by our founding fathers to prevent it from happening again. Yes, I realize that you and your ilk think it ridiculous to believe that we are in imminent danger of falling under an oppressive government. The thing is, no one is suggesting we are. Having said that, disarming ourselves would severely hurt our chances of resisting such a progression in the, probably extremely distant, future. The problem however is it will be virtually impossible to re-arm at such a time. The 2nd amendment is also there for our right to defend ourselves in general.

The only way to stop murderers who target venues where there is a high percentage of no resistance whatsoever is to set the expectation that mass shooters WILL face resistance in the form of law abiding citizens with firearms wherever they may choose to attempt a rampage.

Thank you.

Posted by k on 1.31.13 at 10:29

The Valley Advocate circulates in an area with the strictest gun controls in the country. But the reader is left with the impression that one can almost buy or steal a gun from a local convenience store with ease. This is not the case.

Do we ever get honest statistics? Guns are not a disease, nor a product that has very many defects resulting in accidents. Do we really need a $2.6 million study? We recently had a case where some idiots were playing Russian Roulette and one of the players was shot. This is criminal negligence, but hardly an accident.

How many people went hunting or target shooting, how often, and how many accidents were there? We only read of the accidents. Is a gun more likely to be involved in the death of a family member than to be used to kill in self defense? But we never read of instances where the would be victim takes out his gun and the would be attacker decides to go away. No statistics are kept. And there is a lot of reasons for the would be victim to be quiet. The local authorities may decide that he had the wrong type of permit, or he used excessive force etc. etc. So we do not really know how many such cases there are.

I also do not think we need a $2.6 million study to catch gun thieves. If a small number of places are having a theft problem it should be easy to watch those places. It is harder to hide a stolen gun that it is to hide marijuana, yet millions are spent enforcing marijuana laws. This is simply another case of existing laws not being enforced.

Locally we have a retired Air Force Captain who had his gun thrown into a hedge by his live in girl friend. The captain is being prosecuted for violating gun storage laws. Nothing is happening the person who actually illegally took the gun and threw it into the hedge.

The media is deliberately missing a point about the Tucson shooting. Giffords and the mentally ill Loughner went to the same synagogue. A host of these shooters come from well off families and were mentally ill. But the rich do not want to confine their mentally ill. They would rather confiscate the guns of the peasants.

Posted by Robert Underwood on 1.31.13 at 11:46

Kev - I assume you mean after you and your ilk fashion such gun laws that all we have left are peashooters? If so I agree and thanks for proving my point.

With the weapons available now, we absolutely can defend ourselves from an overreaching gov't. Look around. Some dude is currently on day 4 of a standoff with police. ONE guy.

Take about 100m households with semi-automatic weapons and ammo and you better believe our gov't has little chance to do anything about it if push came to shove. Don't forget, when such a time came there would be a breakdown/dissention of those in our military - they all wouldn't go along with such orders. Again - any time there is ONE guy with a gun holed away in a house it sucks serious resources from the town. Multiply by about 100m, some of whom that are semi-organized.

You and your ilk fall prey to the fact that we are so far removed from an oppressive government that you no longer appreciate the safeguards put in place by our founding fathers to prevent it from happening again.

Learn from history. Jews in Europe were not well armed. Every tyranical gov't starts by disarming its citizens. You are part of that process with your argument.

Posted by k on 2.1.13 at 12:21

We would only have to deal with the National long as the Constitution is followed. Active military can not be used against it's citizens. But what's the Constitution anyhow. The lefties are trashing our 2nd Admendment.

Posted by Chris P on 2.1.13 at 18:56

Police sources tell 7 Action News that a women's basketball coach from Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior High School shot two men who attacked him as he was walking two basketball players to their cars in the school parking lot.

Posted by k on 2.4.13 at 6:57

Just one more reason to exersize our most important right under the constitution and repeal the second ammendment and end this nonsense epidemic of gun violence once and for all. I gladly signed the petition to start the process, join me.

Posted by tiedyeguy on 2.5.13 at 14:40



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