A lot of people have opinions about whether or not having a gun has any correlation to shooting a gun at other people. With the shooting at Umpqua Community College, those opinions are being typed about in a fever pitch on message boards across America. Who in our government might do some research to explore the problem of mass shootings? Perhaps...scientists? Or more specifically the CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? They're the people charged with making sure we know that smoking causes cancer. But there's a problem! The CDC is literally banned from doing any scientific research on the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence.
Earlier this summer, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted to reject an amendment that would have lifted the ban. How did they justify this? By saying "guns are not a disease." Business Insider reported House Speaker John Boehner's thoughts:
“The CDC is there to look at diseases that need to be dealt with to protect public health,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a press conference last week.
“I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease. Guns don’t kill people — people do. And when people use weapons in a horrible way, we should condemn the actions of the individual and not blame the action on some weapon.”
The CDC does study diseases, but it also studies things like tobacco, cars and hurricanes. Those are two non-diseases that people use to kill themselves and each other all the time. (Hurricanes have not yet been harnessed as a potential murder weapon, but there are probably supervillains working on that this very moment.) One thing is clear: if Congress has to completely ban the study of gun ownership and gun violence, there's probably absolutely nothing of interest to know about them.