Kit Sang Boos: Need honesty and facts in gun violence debate

Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Need honesty and facts in gun violence debate

I admire the articulate perseverance of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students. Their authenticity and anguished demands for action are upending the usual ineffective and timid responses of our government.

There is hope that this time it may be different, but with a president who agrees with the last person he speaks to and a morally rudderless Republican Congress, you can’t bet on anything.

I don’t really care that the National Rifle Association is advocating for its membership and scoffing about its lost discounts. But how is it that a five million member organization has such outsized power over the government of 327 million people in our country, and over the debate about and our suffering through gun violence? Is it the deep pockets of the gun industry/lobby? And the posturing of that industry and the NRA that guns are really about our self-defense, even as it is becoming so evident that guns are also about carnage and huge profits? The other perks are minor.

The NRA pushed the Dickey amendment that passed in 1996, which all but forbade studies of gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, our premier research groups for public health issues, when funds were also handily removed. The NRA was unhappy that some research showed that when people had guns in their homes, their family members were more often the victims — not intruders. It didn’t like those facts.

Former U.S. Rep Jay Dickey of Arkansas regretted his stance and supported overturning the amendment before he died in 2017. He realized that it is imperative to study gun violence.

Gun violence is a complex and emotional issue, embedded in the very fabric of American society. That is why we need research to tease out the many factors, to get at data and facts so that we can make evidence-based decisions and nonpartisan policies.

There have to be facts that we can come together to discuss and debate. Why do the NRA and so many Republicans fear that? Research is not always easy and clear, and can be subject to interpretation, but remains an important tool that can be done right.

Let’s base our arguments on as many facts as we can, and not on ignorance and tired tropes. Good science seeks to understand and to keep replicating and refining and questioning. Good science doesn’t stop just because some people don’t like the answers or get uncomfortable.

Scientists compete to test hypotheses to keep each other “honest.” A preponderance of evidence emerges. That’s the kind of honesty that we need to be thoughtful in our deliberations and policies.

Honesty and facts are what we need, in the long run, to find our way out of the morass of gun violence. Let it begin now.

Kit Sang Boos