Lawmakers Question NIH Study On Teens And Firearms

Posted on October 23, 2009

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Some Congressional lawmakers are questioning a National Institutes of Health (NIH) "study" designed to determine why inner city teenagers who illegally drink and carry firearms -- and consort with others who do the same -- run a different risk of getting shot.  If your "Duh!" meter just went off, don't panic -- you're not alone. 

An October 19 article in the Washington Times noted that such studies are coming under scrutiny by lawmakers who "question whether the money could be better spent on biomedical research at a time of increasing competition for NIH funding."  The article also notes that lawmakers are "leery of NIH research relating to firearms in general, recalling how 13 years ago the House voted to cut CDC funding when critics complained that the agency was trying to win public support for gun control." 

According to the article, U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) said of one of the studies, "It's almost as if someone's been looking for a way to get this study done ever since the Centers for Disease Control was banned from doing it 10 years ago.   But it doesn't make any more sense now than it did then." 

And, as noted in a House Energy and Commerce Committee press release this week, Representative Barton, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.), ranking member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, questioned the NIH about the gun-related studies in a letter to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. 

"Dr. Collins, the gathering of abstract knowledge by qualified researchers who study criminal behavior is a laudable endeavor which consistently benefits the American people, often in ways that the public does not see," the lawmakers wrote. "And yet we have trouble understanding the administration's desire to spend, for example, $642,561.00 in taxpayer funds to learn how inner city teenagers whose friends, acquaintances and peers carry firearms and drink alcohol on street corners could show up in emergency rooms with gunshot wounds. 

"The day-follows-night quality of this question and its potential answer simply do not seem to justify the expense that would be borne by people who work and pay their taxes. We also wonder why NIH would be conducting work like this rather than leaving criminal behavior to the Justice Department."

Enough said. 

To read the letter, please click here.

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