The GOP, known to many Americans as the Do-Nothing Party, has announced that in the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history it plans to continue to do nothing on guns. But that’s not exactly true. There is one thing Republicans are doing and have been for two decades and that is to block research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. This week, GOPers stood shoulder-to-shoulder and emphatically insisted that they would continue to uphold the ban on scientific research.
This defensiveness comes after one of the largest scientific bodies in the United States, the American Medical Association, passed a near-unanimous vote to pressure Congress to finally get its head out of the sand and let scientists do their jobs.
Dr. Alice Chen, the executive director of the nonprofit Doctors for America, called the move a “game changer” for the long-standing fight to lift the research restrictions.
“The strength of the AMA’s vast membership, plus that of the over 100 medical and public health groups across the country, will be hard for Congress to ignore,” she said.
Dr. Chen’s optimism is laudable. However, ignoring the recommendations of scientists, doctors, educators, and experts is something the Republican Party has gotten very good at over the years. Immediately after the vote, Republicans began releasing statements insisting they have no plans to begin allowing organizations like the AMA or the CDC to study gun violence. Sending tweets with “thoughts and prayers” after mass shootings is enough.
“I don’t particularly see the need for it, quite frankly,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who leads health funding for the House Appropriations Committee, told The Hill on Thursday.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), a member of the House Doctors Caucus, said he also opposed the policy change. “Although I’m a member of the AMA, I don’t always agree with the position they take,” Burgess told The Hill on Thursday.
“It seems to have worked well. I don’t favor changing it,” Burgess said of federal researchers staying away from the issue of guns.
Rep. Burgess’s version of “working well” includes almost total ignorance of how to address gun violence in America. A giant question mark hanging over a problem that claims the lives of 13,000 people every year in a country that averages over one mass shooting per day. Burgess was one of the Republicans who offered prayers for Orlando, but no solutions.
— Michael Burgess, MD (@michaelcburgess) June 12, 2016
Just two days later, he was posting about Flag Day.
Embarrassingly, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) took another approach and immediately blamed Obama for secretly using hundred of America’s top scientists and doctors to further his “take their guns” agenda.
Research is good, but unfortunately, this administration has used terrorism despicably to advance their gun control issue. It doesn’t shock me to tears that he might use [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] research rules to do the same.
Franks alternative was to send his own thoughts and prayers to the victims.
My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, their families, and first responders in the #Orlando attack.
— Rep. Trent Franks (@RepTrentFranks) June 12, 2016
Near the end of 2015, Republicans in Congress renewed the ban on gun research. This year marks the 20-year anniversary of the blanket blacklisting of any and all funding for the study of gun violence. The scientists who once wrestled with how to stop the killing were shoved out with bills handwritten by the NRA. One such former researcher explained the tragedy of willful ignorance:
The nation might be in a better position to act if medical and public health researchers had continued to study these issues as diligently as some of us did between 1985 and 1997. But in 1996, pro-gun members of Congress mounted an all-out effort to eliminate the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although they failed to defund the center, the House of Representatives removed $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget—precisely the amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year.
Rather than take the senseless deaths in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history as a sign their plan isn’t working, Republicans insist studying guns is inherently liberal and therefore it would be biased against their “guns everywhere” mentality to actually collect some data. Researchers, they fear, might discover, for instance, that assault rifles have led to an uptick in mass shootings and have become the favored instrument of mass destruction for anyone with a grudge and a box of bullets. And if science shows that, then maybe the country might actually feel compelled to do something about it. Lives might be saved, sure, but at what cost? Won’t somebody think of the poor AR-15 manufacturers?
Maybe Republicans can send them thoughts and prayers.
Featured image via Win McNamee/Getty Images