As astute gun owners know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been engaged in gun control politics for decades. In the 1990s, their gun control activism most often took the form of funding anti-gun social “science” aimed at convincing Americans and policymakers to forego and diminish the right to keep and bear arms. Now further evidence has come out showing that the agency not only promotes junk science, but suppresses legitimate research into the benefits of gun ownership.
In mid-December, internet publication The Reload published an article titled, “Emails Show CDC Removed Defensive Gun Use Stats After Gun-Control Advocates Pressured Officials in Private Meeting.” The item detailed email correspondence between the CDC and anti-gun activists in which gun control supporters sought to suppress research from Florida State University Criminology Professor Gary Kleck indicating that Americans use firearms to defend themselves millions of times per year on the agency’s website.
[NRA-ILA Grassroots Alert readers are encouraged to read this important article from The Reload in its entirety by clicking on the link in the article title above.]
Describing the anti-gun lobbying influence effort on the CDC, the article stated,
The lobbying campaign spanned months and culminated with a private meeting between CDC officials and three advocates last summer, a collection of emails obtained by The Reload show. Introductions from the White House and Senator Dick Durbin’s (D., Ill.) office helped the advocates reach top officials at the agency after their initial attempt to reach out went unanswered. The advocates focused their complaints on the CDC’s description of its review of studies that estimated defensive gun uses (DGU) happen between 60,000 and 2.5 million times per year in the United States–attacking criminologist Gary Kleck’s work establishing the top end of the range.
Explaining how the CDC cooperated with the anti-gun pressure campaign, the item noted,
Despite initially standing behind the description in the defensive gun use section of its “fast facts” website on gun violence, the CDC backtracked after a previously-undisclosed virtual meeting with the advocates on September 15th, 2021.
“We are planning to update the fact sheet in early 2022 after the release of some new data,” Beth Reimels, Associate Director for Policy, Partnerships, and Strategic Communication at the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention, said in one email to the three advocates on December 10th. “We will also make some edits to the content we discussed that I think will address the concerns you and other partners have raised.”
The research at issue is Professor Kleck’s findings in the 1993 National Self-Defense Survey, the results of which were published in a 1995 Journal of Law and Criminology article titled, “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun.” The article stated that survey data indicated that “each year in the U.S. there are about 2.2 to 2.5 million DGUs of all types by civilians against humans.”
After Kleck’s findings were published, the CDC conducted its own surveys of DGUs in its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey from 1996 to 1998. However, the agency didn’t make its research public at the time – perhaps because the results did not conform to the CDC’s institutional anti-gun bias.
The CDC survey data finally came to light in 2018. Analyzing the CDC survey along with his own survey, Kleck found that the CDC data indicated that there are likely more than 1 million DGUs per year.
A subsequent survey, conducted in 2021 by Georgetown University Political Economist William English, placed the number of DGUs somewhere in between what the CDC and Kleck’s survey data indicated. In a research paper summarizing his findings, English noted,
The survey further finds that approximately a third of gun owners (31.1%) have used a firearm to defend themselves or their property, often on more than one occasion, and it estimates that guns are used defensively by firearms owners in approximately 1.67 million incidents per year.
In speaking to The Reload, Kleck referred to the CDC’s most recent actions against science as “blatant censorship.” The professor went on to say “CDC is just aligning itself with the gun-control advocacy groups… It’s just saying: ‘we are their tool, and we will do their bidding.’ And that’s not what a government agency should do.”
Explaining how CDC’s suppression hurts public understanding of the firearms issue, Kleck added, “You can’t understand any significant aspects of the gun-control debate once you eliminate defensive gun use… It becomes inexplicable why so many Americans oppose otherwise perfectly reasonable gun-control measurements. It’s because they think it’s gonna lead to prohibition, and they won’t have a gun for self-defense.”
On December 22, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) wrote to the CDC demanding answers about the removal of DGU data from the CDC’s website. The letter stated,
Lobbying groups should not be able to influence your research and reporting. This is a dereliction of duty by the CDC. The CDC must return to providing transparent and data-driven reporting on DGUs, and to provide Congress and the American people with an explanation of why the CDC allowed gun control advocates to censor valid research and reporting conducted on the subject of defensive gun use.
NRA-ILA looks forward to the agency’s response to the senators and will continue to monitor this unacceptable anti-gun activism at the CDC moving forward.