This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.
Hypocrisy, thy name is NRA.
The National Rifle Association fiercely defends the Second Amendment rights of some people – in part by trying to quash the First Amendment rights of others.
It’s one way the organization has worked to prevent information on guns from getting out – information badly needed in efforts to curb the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.
An example: In 2011, the NRA actually got encoded in Florida law a gag order barring doctors from talking to their patients about guns in the home. Not only did this infringe on medical providers’ freedom of speech, it interfered with the doctor-patient relationship. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors counsel patients on firearm-injury prevention.)
A group of doctors got the law overturned in federal court on First Amendment grounds, but the State of Florida is appealing.
Sadly, that’s not the only example of the gun lobby – primarily the NRA – working to squelch the free exchange of information about guns. The gun lobby has gotten restrictions written into statute regarding how local governments use data collected on gun-related crimes. For instance, it was able to bar the FBI from using data to detect illegal firearms traffickers.
The NRA also has a problem with research about gun violence – unless it’s research it has paid for and therefore controls. The organization has worked behind the scenes in Congress to prohibit the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health from researching gun-related issues.
According to a McClatchy Newspaper report, it’s done that by having its proxies in Congress insert language into larger “must-pass” spending bills. This allows the gun lobby to circumvent the usual legislative process and avoid hearings and debate.
The result: In the last two decades, virtually no federal research has been done on such topics as what triggers people to go on murderous rampages.
While it works against unbiased scientific research, the NRA touts its own recent study – for which it paid a task force it created up to $1 million. The report issued by the School Shield Task Force last week – surprise! – reinforces the organization’s call for armed guards in every school.
The NRA’s ability to control lawmakers at the local, state and federal level and to quash much-needed research is a national shame. That’s unlikely to change until Americans make it clear that they will support elected officials willing to defy the gun lobby.