By Larry Keane
Rochelle Walensky, the director of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is putting out the call for increased studies into gun-related issues. Dr. Walensky told CNN the issue of criminal misuse of firearms is a “serious public health threat” adding, “something has to be done about this.”
Dr. Walensky’s said she even wants to include gun owners. So far, Dr. Walensky hasn’t contacted NSSF. If she does, we have a few ideas that work to reduce the criminal acquisition and misuse of firearms, firearm suicides and firearm safety called Real Solutions. Safer Communities®.
Those are programs with proven results. Within Real Solutions is the firearm industry’s FixNICS® campaign, that changed laws in 16 states and in Congress to ensure all disqualifying adjudicated mental health and criminal records are submitted to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Started in 2013 when there were just 1.7 million records submitted, FixNICS changed the laws in those 16 states. Today, there are over 6.14 million submitted disqualifying adjudicated mental health records, a 270 percent increase.
The firearm industry’s Project ChildSafe® forged partnerships with 15,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states and five U.S. territories to distribute over 40 million free firearm safety kits, including locking devices. This program has been heralded by the Government Accountability Office for its’ efficacy and was a finalist for the National Safety Council’s Green Cross awards.
The firearm industry partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for the “Don’t Lie for the Other GuyTM” campaign to prevent illegal straw purchases. This two-decade old outreach reminds the public that purchasing a firearm for someone who can’t, or doesn’t want to be associated with the sale, is a federal crime that carries a punishment of 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine. Another ATF-partner program, Operation Secure Store®, voluntarily increases security at firearm retailers to deter and prevent thefts and burglaries. The ATF showed this program works, with 61 percent drop in instances of thefts and burglaries in the first six months of 2021 compared to 2020 and 74 percent drop in the number of stolen firearms.
The firearm industry also partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to provide information to firearm retailers and ranges to urge “brave conversations” to prevent suicides by firearm. This partnership was extended to include the Department of Veterans Affairs to stem and reverse the instances of suicides.
These are programs proven to reduce the criminal and negligent misuse of firearms. NSSF has stated previously, and stands by the commitment to sit at the table to discuss ways to reduce criminal access to firearms and improve firearm safety in the home while respecting the rights of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.
The CDC has studied firearm issues for years. It has a program that tracks firearm-related injuries, called Web-based Injury Statistics Query Reporting System (WISQARS). It recently showed that, while always tragic, deaths of children under four involving a firearm were less than one percent.
The Dickey Amendment doesn’t halt gun-related-related CDC studies. Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, and recently reaffirmed it, to restrict the CDC from advocating for gun control, which was occurring. The CDC never stopped studies, including examinations of guns and suicide, noise and lead exposure at ranges, firearm violence prevention in Wilmington, Del., and a report on firearms homicides and suicides in metropolitan areas. That doesn’t include studies by the FBI, Department of Justice and Congressional studies. President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order in 2013 directing $10 million in “gun violence” research.
The CDC announced research grants in 2020 “to Prevent Firearm-Related Violence and Injuries.” The CDC has an entire section of their website dedicated to “Firearm Violence Prevention” and another section dedicated to “Funded Research.”
The fact of the matter is criminal misuse of firearms is a concern; one that law enforcement and the courts must address. The insistence of treating criminal activity as a sort of pathogen doesn’t properly address the issue. The mere presence of a firearm doesn’t make law-abiding citizens criminals-in-waiting. Additionally, education efforts, like those championed by the firearm industry, are proven to reduce negligent firearm misuse.
“Let’s agree, we don’t want people to die. Let’s just agree there. What can we do to stop people from dying, and what can we do to stop people from being injured,” Dr. Walensky told CNN.
NSSF is just as frustrated that real firearm safety measures have become a political football, but that’s not always the case. The firearm industry worked with Congress to pass the FIX NICS Act. This was legislation modeled on NSSF’s FixNICS campaign. This law compelled federal agencies and incentivized states to submit all disqualifying background information to the FBI. The federal legislation had 78 Senate co-sponsors, a clear indication that true firearm safety is where both sides can agree. It was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote and signed into law by President Donald Trump. The Department of Justice applauded the law for making significant strides in proving background checks.
This has been done before and more work can be done. The firearm industry trade association is ready if the CDC is serious.