The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been asked by President Obama to begin research on gun violence in America. The research is part of Obama’s gun control proposal, which hopes to ultimately reduce gun violence. The CDC has not conducted research on gun violence since 1996, which is the same year that the National Rifle Association pushed for the Republican-held Congress to slash funding for the research from the budget. Dr. Mark Rosenberg, a former director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control before the budget cut, offers insight into what was being researched and what information was found on gun violence before Congress nixed the funding and how it is relevant to today’s gun proposal.
In his interview, Rosenberg said that one of the most important questions researched on gun violence years ago was whether keeping a firearm in the home protects you or puts you at risk of accidents or homicide. The research revealed that the risks from having a gun in the home increased by over 300 percent. The risk that a family member would die from a homicide by firearm greatly increased as well. In addition, having a firearm in the home also increased the risk of suicide within the home.
Rosenberg also talks about the Firearm Injury Surveillance System, a data-collecting system used by the CDC to collect facts about gun violence before the funding cut. The data collected by this system on gun violence supported the fact that firearms kept in a home increase the risk of injury or homicide.
“We were finding that most homicides occur between people who know each other, people who are acquaintances or might be doing business together or might be living together. They’re not stranger –on-stranger shootings. They’re not mostly home intrusions,” says Rosenberg.
He adds, “We also found that there were a lot of firearm suicides, and in fact most firearm deaths are suicides. There were a lot of young people who were impulsive who were using guns to commit suicide.”
Gun violence research and surveillance has been limited for 16 years now and times have changed since 1996. Rosenberg thinks that if Congress had not cut funding for gun violence research, a vast amount of information would be available on gun violence today, such as which weapons are most likely to be used in specific criminal scenarios. The large gap of zero research and data has left the lawmakers of today scratching their heads about which policy would be the most efficient to deter gun violence. The CDC has a large amount of lost time and research they need to make up for if they want to get the gun control proposal moving.
Krysta Loera is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.