MCN/USA TODAY NETWORK
April 2, 2021
Within the last week, four people, including a 9-year-old
boy, were gunned down at a business complex in Orange, California. This was the
third mass shooting in United States in a span of several weeks.
These killings come as the nation was mourning the killing
of 18 others in mass shootings in Colorado and Georgia. Eight people, including
six women of Asian descent, were killed in three Atlanta-area spas. A week
later, ten people died when a gunman opened fire at a Boulder, Colorado grocery
In the wake of the violence, politicians provided their, all
too familiar, “stop the needless violence” speeches, and then began to posture
to protect their political interests.
Republicans will lament that the Second Amendment is
sacrosanct and beyond the limits of mere mortals to contest. Democrats will nibble around the edges of gun
regulation—trying to avoid getting constituents in right-leaning districts too
This scenario has been repeated after mass shootings in Las
Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Charleston and Pittsburgh—a frenzy of rhetoric
after each shooting, but nothing meaningful in terms of reform.
The Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have
recently passed a bill aimed at addressing gaps in existing gun laws. The bill
would extend, by an additional week, the amount of time the F.B.I. has to
complete background checks.
A second measure would require those buying firearms from private
sellers online or purchasing them at gun shows to have their backgrounds vetted
before they could receive the weapon. The gun show loophole lets private
sellers avoid the background checks that would be required by an in-person
purchase at a retail store.
While Democratic-backed gun regulation legislation faces an
uphill battle in the U.S. Senate because of Republican opposition, President
Joe Biden is apparently weighing whether he has the authority to issue
executive orders aimed at guns made by 3D printers and stemming the flow of
international firearms into the country.
The most promising initiative with regard to gun violence
was put in place in December, before the recent string of mass shootings. With
the National Rifle Associated weakened by in-fighting and allegations of fraud
and waste, Congress approved $25 million in federal funding to study gun
safety. According to the USA Today, the
money will be split evenly between the National Institutes of Health and
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and used to examine gun
violence from a public health perspective.
Federal money for gun research disappeared twenty-five years
ago after Congress adopted the Dickey Amendment, which barred the CDC from
spending money to “advocate or promote gun control.” It was named for Jay
Dickey, a former Republican Congressman from Arkansas, who proudly proclaimed
himself the National Rifle Association’s “point man” in Washington.
Robust gun violence research can set this country on a track
to reducing gun violence in the same way the country reduced traffic
Scientists and engineers were able to identify risk factors
for motor vehicle accidents after significant and sustained research. In
response to the findings of researchers, automakers introduced new safety
features and Congress passed the Highway Safety Act in 1966.
In the last 55 years, accounting for significantly more cars
on the road each driving many more miles on average, Harvard Professor David
Hemenway found that, “motor vehicle deaths per vehicle mile have fallen over 85
Just as the Highway Safety Act brought about the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this new gun research must result in a
National Gun Safety Administration.
The money allotted for gun research pales in comparison with
the $500 million the NHTSA has just for grant awards to all 50 States, the
District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Territories and the Bureau of
Indian Affairs. Yet, the new funding is an encouraging sign.
There is no one answer to gun violence. Just like automobile
researchers introduced airbags and promoted safety measure like seatbelts and a
nationwide crackdown on driving under the influence—gun violence researchers
need to coordinate efforts and have a clearinghouse for implementation and
(Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett,
Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by
McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com
and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino)
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