The CDC Can’t Fund Gun Research. What if that Changed?

America doesn't have good data on guns. Blame the Dickey amendment. First introduced in 1996, the legislation didn't ban gun investigations explicitly (it forbade the use of federal dollars in the advocacy or promotion of gun control), but Congress that year also cut the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the exact amount it had previously devoted to firearm research. It's had a chilling effect on the field ever since. (While some states and private foundations are conducting peer reviewed studies on gun violence, the federal government has been AWOL.) That means policymakers in Washington have little information about what causes gun violence, how it can be prevented or reduced, and who is most at risk.

But that could change. The February 14 killings in Parkland, Florida led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to consider repealing the Dickey amendment and resuming government-backed gun-research. Which raises a pressing question: If the CDC were to resume funding studies on the epidemiology of firearm violence, what questions would they want to answer right now?

"We don't know enough about the risk factors, for either the perpetrators or victims of gun violence," says Garen Wintemute, an ER physician and director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program.

Wintemute says that one of the big predictors of future gun violence is a history of other forms of violence, like domestic abuse. But connecting the dots between prior behavior and future threat is difficult—especially on an individual basis. That said, researchers think that by identifying early signals and studying them more closely, they could help police and social service agents make better decisions about when to intervene.

He also wants to study the psychological impact that high rates of gun violence can have on communities. Does living in place where gunfire or gun violence is common make someone more or less likely to use a gun in the future? Social scientists say they don't know the answer yet.

As for preventing the next mass shooting, experts say they don't know enough about the effectiveness of proposed interventions. Take, for instance, the "gun restraining order" laws recently enacted in California, Oregon and Washington. Such regulations allow family members as well as law enforcement to ask a judge to confiscate guns from people deemed to pose "a serious risk of harm." (In San Diego County, ten gun owners recently received court orders to surrender their weapons under the new law.) It sounds like a good idea in theory, but to expand such laws to other states, or the federal level, policymakers would need to make a case for their effectiveness. And at least for now, the data on whether the laws have a measurable impact on either suicides or murders just doesn't exist.

“There isn’t any information other than anecdotal,” says Shannon Frattaroli, associate professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Frattaroli says a key factor, when it comes to studying the effectiveness of firearm policies, is being able to follow weapons. One way to track how violence spreads is by tracing implicated weapons to their source. In big cities plagued by gun violence, these weapons are often bought and sold illegally. "We need to understand where guns are coming from, how they get from the legal market to the hands of people who are prohibited to purchase them," Frattaroli says. "That’s important to know if we want to get a handle on the flow of guns."

Doing so will require a lot more money, time, and resources than researchers currently possess. That’s where the CDC might serve as both a deep-pocketed grant-making agency, as well as a clearinghouse for various databases on gun violence and gun ownership. A boost in funding would also attract more and better scientists to the field, whose numbers have dwindled since the Dickey amendment went into effect. “As I recruit new investigators, it has been a critical question for applicants: 'Will I have a job in a couple years, or will I have to look for a job in another field because there’s no funding,'" Wintemute says.

Social scientist and ER docs like Frattaroli and Wintemute are encouraged by the possibility that Congress might direct the CDC to renew gun research. President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Alex Azar, said the day after the Florida shootings that he backs such efforts. But this shift might take a while. The agency has been without a leader since January, when director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned after news reports that she purchased tobacco stocks after taking office. Any big change in the status quo of the amendment—and more money for gun violence research—will probably have to wait for a change in control of Congress.

Gun Shy

  • The United States has never funded a research center to study gun violence—so last year, California started one on its own.

  • If the CDC's commitment to gun violence research expands, it could be a surprise to these researchers, who raced to protect the little data they had from the Trump administration.

  • If it doesn't, though, researchers will continue to find novel ways to work around their utter lack of data, like this group that rifled through old gun magazines for information.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/what-if-the-cdc-could-fund-gun-research/

Trump Suggests Bonuses for Gun-Trained Teachers, Praises the NRA

President Donald Trump called for paying bonuses to teachers who carry guns in the classroom, embracing a controversial proposal to curb school shootings hours after offering a full-throated endorsement of the National Rifle Association.

Trump told state and local officials gathered at the White House on Thursday to discuss school safety that “you can’t hire enough security guards” and teachers could carry concealed weapons and “nobody would know who they are.” He said that teachers would go through “rigorous training” and could get “a little bit of a bonus.”

His support for arming educators comes a week after the massacre of 17 people at a high school in Florida. The president and lawmakers are now struggling to respond to public demands for action, mindful of the clout gun-rights enthusiasts hold in the Republican Party, which controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Guns in America

The NRA, which has been one of the most powerful political opponents to gun control, received lavish praise from Trump just minutes before its chief executive officer, Wayne LaPierre, took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference. LaPierre proceeded to blast school officials, local law enforcement and the FBI for failing to prevent school shootings.

It was a jarring contrast for Trump just a day after his emotional meeting with students and parents affected by recent school massacres. Earlier Thursday morning, before a tweet praising the NRA, Trump went the furthest he’s ever gone on gun control, saying he’d push for tougher background checks that screen for mental health, raising the minimum age of buyers to 21, and ending the sale of bump stocks.

Trump also suggested to local officials at the White House meeting that schools concentrate more on hardening facilities to withstand rifle fire. But he opposed mandating active shooting drills — which have become increasingly common — saying that rehearsing for a possibly violent event could upset students.

“Active shooter drills is a very negative thing, have to be honest with you,” Trump said, “I’d much rather have a hardened school.” He added that he wouldn’t want his son to be told he was going through an active shooter drill. “I think it’s very bad for children.”

White House spokesman Raj Shah later said that Trump only opposes using the term “active shooter drill” because it could be frightening, and suggested schools instead use the term “safety drill.”

Children’s exposure to violence on the Internet and in video games and movies also may be contributing to the shootings, Trump added. “Their minds are being formed, and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it,” he said.

LaPierre called for more armed security at schools and criticized the notion of making schools “gun-free zones,” which he said are targets for potential shooters, echoing comments Trump has made.

The NRA chief lashed out at Democrats including Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who has long pushed for tighter gun laws, for “politicizing” the Florida shooting. He said “elites” want to “eradicate all individual freedoms.”

“They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI,” LaPierre said.

The NRA is one of the biggest spenders in elections, ranking 9th among all outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2016, the NRA’s political arms spent $54.4 million influencing elections, Federal Election Commission records show, including $19.8 million attacking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and $11.4 million promoting Trump. The NRA also spent $500,000 or more on 7 Senate races, including in battleground states Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Trump was endorsed by the NRA and has routinely touted his support for the organization, and his campaign said he opposed expanding the background check system or imposing new restrictions on gun and magazine bans. Trump is expected to speak at the CPAC event on Friday.

Trump conferred with the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, over the weekend in the aftermath of the Florida shooting, Shah said.

Gun stocks rose Thursday after declining the two prior days. Shares in American Outdoor Brands Corp. rose 2.8 percent to $10.34 and Sturm Ruger & Co. was up 5 percent to $49.55 at 1:30 p.m. New York time.

Background Checks

While Trump said he would push “comprehensive background checks” with an emphasis on mental health, an Obama-era gun rule aimed at preventing people with serious mental illness from buying guns was one of the first targets of Republicans in Congress last year. Lawmakers used a special procedure under the Congressional Review Act to do away with the rule.

Trump announced Tuesday he would propose regulations to ban “bump stocks” used to allow semi-automatic rifles to fire like automatic weapons. He signaled support for bipartisan legislation to improve data collection for the federal gun-sale background check system.

Trump said he called many lawmakers Wednesday evening to discuss background checks and that many prior opponents of toughening them have changed their minds.

But the president isn’t ready to back any specific legislation yet, Shah said. Instead Trump “is proposing ideas, he’s listening right now,” Shah said.

Click here for more on the debate over guns in America.

His support for arming teachers would eliminate the gun-free zones in and around schools enshrined in a nearly three-decade-old federal law.

Trump said in a tweet earlier Thursday that 20 percent of teachers “would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this.”

The idea prompted sharp rebukes from some Democrats and misgivings from at least one prominent Republican.

Murphy said on CNN that the proposal was “a recipe for disaster,” adding that there was no evidence that it would prevent shootings.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, told a CNN town hall meeting on Wednesday that he opposed arming teachers.

Trump on Thursday tried to explain his rationale for arming school staff members. “History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes,” Trump tweeted. “It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!”

“If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!” Trump wrote.

Trump has signaled support for a bipartisan Senate bill that would strengthen current laws requiring federal agencies to report information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The House passed a similar bill in December, but added legislation that would require states to recognize concealed carry licenses from other states. House conservatives would likely balk at separating the two issues, while the House version of the bill would likely fail in the Senate.

A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday found 97 percent support for universal background checks, while 67 percent backed a ban on the sale of assault weapons.

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, which operates Bloomberg News, serves as a member of Everytown for Gun Safety’s advisory board and is a donor to the group. Everytown for Gun Safety advocates for universal background checks and other gun control measures.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-21/trump-hears-stories-from-shooting-victims-in-remarkable-meeting

    Sensible Gun Reform: Florida Will Now Require Anyone Carrying Out A School Shooting To Be Accompanied By A Therapist To Ensure Theyre Not Mentally Ill

    Sadly, many students and teachers in America today live in constant fear that their school could someday be attacked by a deranged gunman. But after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida lawmakers have finally stepped up to pass legislation that will protect students in their state from experiencing a similar nightmare: Florida is now requiring anyone carrying out a school shooting to be accompanied by a therapist to ensure they’re not mentally ill.

    Thank God. With this regulation in place, the possibility of a troubled person using a gun to carry out horrific violence will no longer be a daily concern for Florida’s schoolchildren.

    According to the new gun safety regulations, anyone who opens fire on students, teachers, or staff at a Florida school must now be chaperoned by a licensed counselor, who will periodically administer an array of verbal and visual tests to the shooter to confirm that he or she is not experiencing symptoms of any psychiatric disorder recognized by the DSM-5 for the duration of the armed rampage. The therapist accompanying the shooter will be required by law to stay at his side for the duration of the attack and to monitor him from the moment he opens fire on his classmates and teachers to the moment he turns his gun on his final victim.

    If at any point while firing on their classmates, the active shooter exhibits symptoms of psychosis, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or any other form of mental illness, the therapist will be legally obligated to report the ongoing massacre to both local police and the FBI, who will begin taking steps to neutralize the situation and to ensure the unstable shooter no longer has access to firearms.

    Well done, Florida. This is commonsense gun reform at its best.

    “We all know how dangerous it can be if a mentally ill person gets their hands on a firearm, so from now on, we will do everything we can to make sure any Florida resident who decides to use a gun to murder children inside a school is of sound mind,” explained Florida Governor Rick Scott. “We are confident that having mental health professionals present for all future school shootings will help us ensure that anyone carrying out a school shooting in the future is able to pass a psychiatric background check.”

    This is incredible news. After the horrifying bloodshed of the Parkland shooting, it’s inspiring to see government officials work so hard to give students and parents some much-needed peace of mind. In a country where gun violence has become an epidemic, this is the kind of sensible problem-solving we need. Let’s hope this legislation finds its way to other states to help keep American children safe from the unhinged people who could potentially hurt them.

    Read more: http://www.clickhole.com/article/sensible-gun-reform-florida-will-now-require-anyon-7446

    John Oliver Praises Parkland Shooting Survivors for Taking on the Gun Lobby

    Yes, John Oliver is back.

    After several months off, the irascible Brit returned to the desk of Last Week Tonight for its fifth season premiere. He began by addressing the heartbreaking events of Parkland, Florida, wherein a MAGA hat-wearing 19-year-old armed with a legally purchased AR-15 assault rifle targeted the students and faculty of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, taking 17 lives in a hail of gunfire.

    These events are now so familiar, we basically automatically know how each side will play out: thoughts and prayers, fuck your thoughts and prayers, its a mental health problem, yeah, but its also a gun problem, and then someone says nows not the time to talk about gun control, and then everybody moves on until it inevitably happens again, said Oliver.

    He added: But this time felt slightly different because when the nows not the time argument came out, the kids from that school said, You know what? Yes it fucking is.

    In the wake of the massacre, the teen survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been calling out the empty rhetoric of obfuscating talking-head charlatans like Tomi Lahren and gun lobby flunkies like President Trump, who somehow managed to make the tragedy all about himself. This is a generation of kids who were born after Columbine, who will no longer accept mass shootings as their new reality, and who are outraged by the governmental apathy and indifference.

    They say that no laws couldve been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS! screamed MSD High student Emma Gonzalez at a recent rally.

    We call BS, echoed Oliver. It is a little ironic that the people who are acting with the most maturity in this horrifying situation arent even old enough to say the word bullshit in front of their parents. Those kids have already announced a march next month, and in doing so theyre challenging adults to participate in a real conversation about gun violence.

    Whether or not President Trumpwho partied at a Mar-a-Lago disco bash mere hours after visiting wounded survivors of the Parkland shootingwill participate in that dialogue is anybodys guess.

    Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/john-oliver-praises-parkland-shooting-survivors-for-taking-on-the-gun-lobby

    HERE WE GO! Gavin Newsom pushes gun control in idiotic video targeting the NRA

    California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is no stranger to the gun control debate. In fact, he’s one of the most outspoken gun control proponents in the nation.

    Now that Newsom is running for governor, he decided to take to Twitter to target his arch nemesis: the National Rifle Association. What better way to rally his anti-gun followers than by taking shots at the NRA?

    Read more: https://twitchy.com/bethb-313034/2017/12/14/here-we-go-gavin-newsom-pushes-gun-control-in-idiotic-video-targeting-the-nra/