Just because Americans have the right to bear arms shouldn't mean that public-health experts cannot study ways to reduce the risk of deadly gun violence.
That, however, effectively has been U.S. policy since the mid-1990s. That's when the National Rifle Association went ballistic over a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that having a gun in the house for protection actually made a family less safe.
As spelled out in a front page article Tuesday in the New York Times, the NRA and its congressional allies went after CDC funding of its "injury control and prevention" office. Millions were pulled from the agency's appropriation, and only restored after a provision was written into the regulations that precluded any work that could be "used to advocate or promote gun control."
Now why would the nation's preeminent public health agency want to do anything that would take a deadly weapon out of the hands of someone who might hurt themselves or others? Imagine that.
More to the point, the CDC ought to be in the business of studying any activity that impacts public health. While it's not easy to link the prevalence of weapons with rates of violence, further study just might reveal evidence that could be used to prevent gun injuries.
Such studies, presumably, come under the NRA's definition for the "slippery slope" to gun control.
But things have changed on the gun ownership front. The U.S. Supreme Court has established gun ownership as a constitutional right - one that's likely to fall less and less under restrictions imposed by states or the federal government.
It's pretty clear that no one's going to take away Americans' arsenal. So what's the risk in permitting the resumption of scholarly, scientific study of the use of guns and their impact on public health?
Then again, maybe the NRA is afraid what the results will show.