On Tuesday, April 23, the Committee on Priorities for a Public Health Research Agenda to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence--a body formed under the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences--met in Washington, D.C.
Since 1996, federal law has prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding research that openly advocates gun control. In January, President Obama issued a memorandum directing the CDC to develop a new "gun violence" research agenda, and called on Congress to provide $10 million to fund the effort. The committee's mandate is to advise the CDC in developing "a public health research agenda to improve knowledge of the causes of gun violence, the interventions that prevent gun violence, and strategies to minimize the public health burden of gun violence."
At the prospect of lavish taxpayer-funded grants over the next few years, many longtime gun control advocacy researchers came to D.C. to position themselves for a slice of the pie.
Among those participating in the workshop were the authors of some of the most widely-publicized gun control advocacy research of the last decade, including: Charles Branas and Susan Sorenson (University Of Pennsylvania.); David Hemenway and Matthew Miller (Harvard University); Daniel Webster, Stephen Teret and Jon Vernick (John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health); Garen Wintemute (University of California-Davis); Arthur Kellermann (RAND Corp.); and Philip Cook (Duke University). Brady Campaign president Daniel Gross also spoke at the conference, and international gun control activist Rebecca Peters attended, but made no presentation.
To the committee's credit, the NRA was also invited to participate. NRA-ILA Research and Information Director John Frazer made a brief presentation suggesting that any research on gun control initiatives should consider both the benefits of gun ownership (such as deterring or stopping crimes) and the potential costs of controls, in terms of their effects on responsible gun owners' rights. He also noted the need for updated research on defensive gun uses, the last major efforts on the subject having been carried out in the 1990s, by committee member Gary Kleck (Florida State University) and others. NRA staff also monitored afternoon breakout sessions on "Characteristics of Gun Violence," "Intervention Research Priorities," and "Risk and Protective Factors Research Priorities."
The committee's final report and recommendations for Obama's new gun control research agenda are expected within the next couple of months. Stay tuned.