Former gun lobby lackey: ‘Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution’

     Jay Dickey is shown in 2002 during his run for the Arkansas 4th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. (AP Photo/Spencer Tirey)

    Jay Dickey is shown in 2002 during his run for the Arkansas 4th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. (AP Photo/Spencer Tirey)

    A Republican gun lobby lackey is now confessing his sins. He says he was wrong, 19 years ago, when he did the NRA’s bidding in the House of Representatives. He authored the infamous provision that essentially bars federal health agencies from conducting gun violence research. Yes, folks, thanks to the Dickey amendment — named for him, congressman Jay Dickey — we’re so mesmerized by our weaponry that we don’t even let the feds study the violence caused by our weaponry.

    Oh, swell. Now he tells us.

    A Republican gun lobby lackey is now confessing his sins. He says he was wrong, 19 years ago, when he did the NRA’s bidding in the House of Representatives. He authored the infamous provision that essentially bars federal health agencies from conducting gun violence research. Yes, folks, thanks to the Dickey amendment — named for him, congressman Jay Dickey — we’re so mesmerized by our weaponry that we don’t even let the feds study the violence caused by our weaponry.

    And because the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health have virtually no money to probe the causes of gun violence — in contrast to their life-saving research on car crashes and swimming pool safety — they’re in no position to suggest cures. For instance, we don’t know how many lives will be saved if we enact universal background checks, or more vigilant mental health measures, or gun-buyback programs, or high-capacity ammo bans, or a new assault weapons ban, or if we ban sales to people on the FBI terror watch list.

    In a rational world, when you need basic info about a problem — in this case, a death epidemic — you research it; once you’ve researched it thoroughly, you can propose solutions. But thanks to Jay Dickey’s amendment — at the behest of his gun lobby overlords, and with the servitude of his fellow lawmakers — the suppression of gun violence research is the law of the land. (Imagine, during the 1950s, if the tobacco industry had muscled a law that barred the Surgeon General from researching the health effects of cigarettes.)

    Today’s bottom line: We’re not only locked and loaded, we’re mute and muzzled.

    But wait! Now Jay Dickey says that he has “regrets.” Now that the Arkansas Republican is safely out of office, and safe from the NRA’s ire, he feels liberated to utter self-evident truths. In a letter released this week, he says: “Scientific research should help answer how we can best reduce gun violence …. It is my position that somehow or some way we should slowly but methodically fund such research until a solution is reached. Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution.”

    Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution. 

    No kidding, pal. Thanks for sharing that gem of wisdom, 14 years after you left Congress. 

    At a time when, just yesterday, the Senate rejected bills that would’ve barred the sale of guns to people on the FBI terror watch list, and would’ve expanded background checks to screen out convicted felons and the mentally ill, I suppose we have to cherish the tiny victories. I suppose Jay Dickey’s retroactive enlightenment is one such victory.

    Problem is, the damage has already been done. The feds spend roughly $240 million a year on traffic safety research, and $230 million a year on food safety research, and $330 million a year on tobacco research. The NIH spends roughly $21 million a year to research, and seek solutions for, the debilitating effects of serious headaches. Care to guess the federal tab for gun violence research? For the murder epidemic that claims 10,000 Americans a year? The annual amount that manages to squeeze through the Dickey amendment’s cracks? $2 million.

    Stats aside, here’s how the damage looks at ground level: The CDC has released a new report about the high incidence of gun violence in Wilmington, Delaware. It cites various factors — like high unemployment and “trauma from child abuse victimization” — but it fails to even consider the question of whether curbing gun sales would lower the rate of gun violence. Mindful of the Dickey amendment, the CDC steered clear of that issue.

    If only our public servants would stand up for freedom of information while they’re still serving, rather than enjoying retirement. If only our practitioners of scientific inquiry had been freed up these past 20 years, perhaps we’d know how best to curb this epidemic. At minimum, we’d certainly be better off than we are now.

    And this is how we are now:

    A friend of mine, Leslie Sopher, is the mother of two young children. She gets the last word today. On Facebook yesterday, she wrote:

    “The entire situation is maddening. Have your kids had lockdown drills yet? Rose has. I cried after I read the letter her school sent home explaining how they were going to go about it, and how to talk to our kids about it. And although I think it’s necessary, it breaks my heart that my babies live in a world where they have to be ready in case a bad person comes to their school to try and hurt them. This is normal now … and that is f’d up.”

    By the way — and you just can’t make this stuff up — the San Bernardino guy bought his semiautomatic handguns (legally, natch) at an outlet called Annie’s Get Your Gun, “the family-friendly gun store.” Yee-hah! Tell it to the grieving families.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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