The non-partisan RAND Corporation's sweeping new analysis on gun policy in the U.S. reveals that gun violence would be reduced with stricter laws restricting access to firearms—but also stresses that efforts to complete research on the issue have often been stymied by a lack of resources, due to a funding freeze that was pushed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) decades ago.
Despite the lack of research to draw from, RAND's findings did point to the conclusion that laws to prevent children from accessing firearms can decrease suicides and unintentional injuries or deaths and that universal background checks would lead to a drop in suicides and violent crimes. Concealed-carry and stand-your-ground laws—both backed by the NRA—were also found to increase violent crimes.
However, the group's two-year effort to understand the precise impact gun control policies—and lack thereof—have had on the safety of American communities, was frequently frustrating, as researchers "consistently found inadequate evidence for the likely effects of different gun policies on a wide range of outcomes," according to the study, entitled "Gun Policy in America."
The RAND Corporation points to a 1996 measure passed by Congress, known as the Dickey Amendment, which slashed $2.6 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) budget shortly after the agency published a study on the risks associated with having a gun in the home.
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The funding cut was equal to what the CDC had been spending on firearm injuries research, and was the result of demands by the NRA, which saw the agency's study as "anti-gun" policy advocacy.
"I think that had an effect not just on government research but on all research," Avery Gardiner, co-founder of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I think potentially a whole generation of public health research has been affected by the Dickey Amendment."
"To improve understanding of the real effects of gun policies, Congress should consider lifting current restrictions in appropriations legislation, and the administration should invest in firearm research portfolios," concluded the RAND Corporation.