When the Parkland shooting occurred, the media and news outlets began to report on the ban that prevented CDC from conducting gun violence research. To give some background, this ban came from Rep. Dickey (R-Ark.) who added this amendment in 1999 to the CDC appropriation bill. The amendment states that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” To clarify, the amendment prohibits the CDC from advocating any gun-control policy, only prevents the organization from using its funding to research gun violence. But we all know that with no money there is no research. This amendment has shown up every year, but the Obama administration reversed this, but the Trump Administration kept this amendment. However, the most recent funding bill reverses the Dickey amendment, but unless there is money added to the appropriations bill, then there is nothing anything different.
If you're wondering why gun violence is considered a public health issue, it is because of this.
According to the Gun Violence Archive,
In 2017, 61,331 incidents involving guns occurred. 15,549 of these incidents results in deaths.
In 2018, 12,838 incidents have occurred. 3,283 of these incidents have resulted in deaths.
When over 60,000 incidents involving guns occur every year, and 25% of those result in death, then it should be classified as a public health crisis. The CDC needs to study these trends because proper research informs good policy. And then there is the balance between the 2nd amendment and protecting people.
The Role of Mental Health
President Trump blamed the ease of access mentally ill people have to guns and the underfunding of mental institutions. Associating mentally ill people with any gun violence is a complicated issue.
Think of this as a Venn Diagram. One side is the people who are mentally ill. The other side is people who commit gun violence. In the middle is the small intersection of people who are mentally ill and commit gun violence. However, not all gun violence perpetrators are mentally ill, and not all mentally ill people commit murders and shootings. Take gang violence for example. These shooters are mentally competent, but we do not often hear about these shootings because the media and news outlets don't cover it. And so, the shootings we often hear about are the ones committed by mentally ill people
It is essential to not stereotype all mentally ill people as people who will go on and be violent and hurt people because it will further stigmatize mentally ill people, making it possibly harder to help this community.
Reform vs. Politics
39 days after the Parkland tragedy, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida adopted into law the state's first gun control legislation. This law tightens gun control, allows some teachers to be alarmed, covers the role of mental health, and increases the minimum age requirement to purchase a gun from 18 to 21.
Guess who subsequently filed a federal lawsuit after this law was signed? The NRA! The organization alleged that raising the minimum age requirement impinges on people's 2nd and 14th amendment rights and that current law already prohibits those under 21 to not be able to purchase certain types of guns. In case you're wondering how powerful the NRA is, just know that it spent over 50 million dollars in the last election. Most of the money was directed to target ads against Democrats instead of supporting Republicans. 50 MILLION.
People often ask why our government does not enact gun control reform after each tragedy because it seems like every other country has learned to pass reform after there a mass shooting, most noticeably Australia. However, these countries do not have an organization that is nowhere as powerful as the NRA and as involved in elections as the NRA is.
Politicians are continually thinking about reelection and to win they need their donors to be on board. These high-profile donors often have stipulations that politicians need to serve otherwise they won't get the money. So the question becomes are politicians serving their donors or their constituents? One last bit on the NRA, there is an influential NRA lobbyist in Florida who kills any gun control law that comes up.
Here's an interesting New Yorker article on her: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/05/the-nra-lobbyist-behind-floridas-pro-gun-policies
As for why Gov. Scott, who is a Republican, enacted a gun-control reform. It can mostly be traced to the fact that he is running for Senate. Passing a gun-control overhaul and showing your constituents that you care about them and their safety will help the Governor win some votes. For Gov. Scott, the politics stream was aligned for him to adopt this legislation. For the other shootings that have happened before the Parkland one, the politics stream may not have been aligned for politicians to want to pass gun reform. But because it was politically advantageous for Gov. Scott, he wanted to pass reform even though it most likely alienated his base.
So where does this leave us? Well, issues have become so politically polarized that we forget about the constituents and the people who are suffering. Politicians become so entangled in the blame game and defending themselves that no reform often happens. But at the end of the day, how would you feel if you saw on the news that a shooting occurred at the school your siblings go to? Or a shooting happened at a movie theater where your parents are? Or what if it was you who was trapped in a shooting?
Gun violence is a systematic issue. You have powerful lobbyists and an organization with deep pockets and influence. But you also have young activists who have survived mass shootings and refuse to let their voices be unheard. But you also have a government that currently does not seem to be supportive of gun control. I don't see a solution anytime soon, given how political gun control is, but there has been progress, and we may need to be patient, but we can NOT give up.
So keep on making your voices heard. Don't give up. And don't forget the tragedies that have happened.