Our gun violence epidemic is a divisive issue. But there’s plenty of opportunity for compromise and consensus, especially because we all fundamentally agree that the proliferation of mass shootings in this country has been horrific.
We should also all agree that we need to learn more about what has caused, and what continues to cause, the proliferation of mass shootings in this country, so we can figure out what can successfully be done to mitigate the effects of this tragic phenomenon. If we can learn the causes and what policies are effective or not effective, we can implement change that saves lives.
Here’s an example: Researchers tracked Californians convicted of violent misdemeanors who tried to purchase a firearm before the state prohibited that demographic from buying guns, and also tracked a group with the same conviction who tried to buy firearms after the policy changed. The research found that the second group that could not purchase firearms had a 25% lower rate of subsequent arrest.
Now that we know that, we can keep that policy in place and save lives.
To that end, supporting research related to our gun violence epidemic should be a given. It should not be controversial. We should all want to learn more about the cause to better inform our conversations and our policy decisions.
Folks who oppose common-sense gun laws often say that gun safety laws are ineffective. That assertion is not based on research — so before we write off these laws based on opinion, we should explore the facts.
And wouldn’t we all want to have more information? Our community is safer when we know which policies reduce gun violence and which ones are ineffective. And refusing to learn this information means our policies are less effective. That means more innocent lives are lost and more families suffer the unspeakable pain of losing loved ones.
So why are the GOP and National Rifle Association fighting year after year to prohibit all research related to gun violence? Why are Republicans vowing to end funding for gun-violence research?
In the 1990s, the federal government conducted gun-related research and provided funding for university research. But in 1996, Congress passed an amendment, known as the Dickey Amendment, that prohibited the use of federal funds to “advocate or promote gun control,” which effectively ended all funding to conduct firearm-related research.
In 2019, Congress finally allotted $25 million — a small but critically important allotment of funding — for gun-violence research.
California has a unique role to play in researching gun violence. Scientists around the country regularly rely upon California’s data, since our state was one of the only places where gun-violence research has been conducted in the United States over the 20-year span prior to 2019.
I can say without hesitation that I will support gun-violence research and related funding as our state senator.
Unfortunately, many Republican elected officials don’t support this kind of research. Many of them voted against Assembly Bill 173, a bill that made information related to gun violence available to the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis and to other researchers seeking to study the prevention of violence.
That vote may have been the reason why so many Republicans get an A rating from the NRA.
To be clear, I support gun ownership. I inherited guns from my father when he passed. I grew up shooting with my dad for sport. This isn’t about being against gun ownership. It’s about learning which common-sense policies can prevent horrific tragedy. And opposing all forms of gun-violence research is not just extreme – it’s deadly.
Let’s learn more about one of the leading causes of death in this country and let’s save lives while preserving the fundamental Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners.
Kipp Mueller is a Canyon Country resident and candidate for the state’s 21st Senate District, which encompasses the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor valleys. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.