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The gun numbers America doesn’t have

January 30th, 2013
05:34 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

For years, the U.S. government was researching how to prevent gun violence as an issue of public health and safety.

Then, in 1996, congress voted to severely restrict the program’s funding.

Now President Obama has called for renewed research. Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who ran the research program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says there are four essential questions researchers should ask about gun violence.

  1. What’s the problem? (Meaning: Who gets shot with what, under what circumstances and where?)
  2. What are the causes? (What increases your risk and what can protect you?)
  3. What works to prevent these types of shootings?
  4. How do you implement those things that decrease gun deaths?

“This isn’t complicated esoteric rocket science,” Rosenberg told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

RELATED: More Americans killed in gun deaths than in terrorist attacks


For more than sixteen years, the U.S. government has been unable to answer these questions scientifically.

“It means we have been going about it blind,” he said. “You need large studies, large numbers of people and large geographic areas.”

Critics say that the CDC’s gun research had been politically motivated – an accusation Rosenberg rejects.

“Our research says ‘Let’s use science to save lives,” he insisted. “We’re not researching gun control per se. We’re looking at what can be done to research firearms injuries and death.”

According to Ronseberg, that includes a wide range of measures, including how to better detect people with mental illness for instance and how to keep firearms out of their hands.

Rosenberg said Americans should look at the success it had in researching and reducing driving deaths to better understand what more data could mean for gun-related deaths.

In the 1960s, the United States had an epidemic of young people dying on the roads. Rosenberg says that the hundreds of millions of dollars that the government invested in motor vehicle research helped to redesign cars, seatbelts, and airbags, as well as make roads safer.

“It has been a huge success story,” Rosenberg said and he believes that if the funding for research on gun violence is renewed, it could make a tremendous difference.

“Right now we don’t know what type of guns and policies work and it’s a life and death problem,” he said. “We’ve got to find out what works.”

READ MORE: The risk of daring to disagree with the NRA

Filed under:  Gun Control • Latest Episode
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. cmf

    The research was defunded because it was pointless. The 2nd amendment does reflect a fundamental right in American society that can't be restricted arbitrarily. If you made it illegal for people to leave their homes in hours of darkness or shower standing up you would probably save lives too but it's not reasonable to place these restrictions on free people. If you start doing this where does it end? I spent three years living in England when stationed there with the U.S. military and it's a crime that you can be jailed for carrying a knife with a locking or fixed blade of any length. Legally you can be arrested for buying one at a store and bringing it home, it's up to the police to determine your “intent” in that case. They are now considering further legislation to ban the sale and possession of pointed kitchen knives at home.

    January 31, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Reply
    • rasia

      Hey, non-pointed knives may be a great industrial design. So also civilian guns with safety features of up to 5 which means intent to shoot is really intended.

      February 2, 2013 at 6:38 am | Reply
    • Chimaren

      These stories are ridiculous. The exact homicide stats by weapon by state are available to the public on the FBI website under Article 20 with the year you're looking for. To sum it up, 33000 deaths via homicide in this country per year. 22000 due to suicide, 11000 due to murder. 2/3rds of the 11000 are wives killed by husbands, and the next likely murder suspect is husbands by wives, and the third is the eldest son. In short, 300 murders from mass assaults in 15 years, which is less than 1% of 1% of 1% of 1% of 315 million people in this country plus 11 million illegal aliens. 11,000 murders is less than 1% of 1% of 315 million people. Mental health related homicides are less than 4% (and many stats say 2% depending on how you place suicides). We need to refrain from finding problems where there aren't any, and failing to address the problems that are there.

      March 12, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Reply
  2. Make Itso

    The largest number of gun deaths come from suicides. Second is inner city, gun free zones that let gangs of killers roam free. Most of the CDC sponsored gun research starts out with the equivalent mindset of "nobody but a race car driver should have a car" or "let's restrict all cars to 25mph, except for government vehicles". If the CDC contracted the research out to the NRA, I might go along with it.

    January 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  3. kevin

    Guns have been part of American life from the very beginning.Gun ownership played a vital role in Independence of the country.It is issue of liberty and emotions.

    February 3, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  4. doabitofhomework

    Corsets were a part of American life from the beginning, too. Does that mean we must still use them?

    Guns did play a part in independence, and they still have a place in our military, including state militias. An average shmoe doesn't need one to protect his home. Today we have mace and pepper sprays, totally incapacitating to an intruder, but nonlethal, so no one would hesitate to use it. They're also portable and inexpensive. So tell me, then, how would a gun do better? Even against a small group? You can have all the sprays you want, and they don't require good aim to get more than one person at a shot.

    Without guns in private hands, explain how our liberty would be at risk? Unless you want to cough up some paranoid survivalist notions, there is no risk in gun-free living. Other free world nations haven't had their liberty threatened by a dramatic reduction in gun ownership. So are you saying Americans are more lustful about committing violent acts?

    You have to prove your case, and you can't, except with lies and propaganda. Your proof should include evidence that shows exactly HOW a gun-free society is threatened. This study is necessary. There is a lot of data, some valid, some skewed, and people then cherry-pick the ones they like best. That isn't meaningful research.

    I live in Mexico, which prohibits private gun ownership, except under specific licenses for hunters. And don't quote me the deaths from the cartels, either, since their existence is entirely due to American druggies. Mexico knows this, and so do rational Americans. This country is a very safe place to live, much more than the States. Not only that, but Mexico is not a warmonger, and the money it saves them to NOT make war is part of the reason its middle class has grown like a mushroom patch in recent years. In some very real ways, there is more true liberty here than back home, and I wish it were otherwise. It is WE who need to get our heads straight on many issues, not just guns. Instead of DEALING with some of our ugly issues, we go into denial about them.

    We, most of us, have fairly comfortable lives, and we resent anything that rocks the boat. So we go into denial often, thinking maybe it'll go away or someone else will "fix it" for us. It is the very fact that we DO recognize the ugliness and fearfulness of some issues that we seek refuge in denial. It is a very dangerous trait we have – it's anti-survival. But guns are not, therefore, "pro-survival." They are a symptom, for many gun owners, of their very real – but consciously denied – fears about issues that really COULD destroy us. Instead, they latch onto notions that they need guns to protect themselves from our OWN government, and they require no proof to hold that view. The other threats, however, are very real, yet we look past them as though they aren't even there. It makes us irrational, sometimes at the cultural, rather than just the individual, level. That is not a good thing.

    And as for the "man card" mindset, they should know that a gun doesn't make any man more manly, but it DOES reveal his feelings of inadequacy. For all to see.

    February 3, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Reply
    • Connie

      The ones that go into denial about the real problems, and look to the government to "fix them," are the gun control crowd. Gun control is an easy thing to do without having to address the real problems. If Mexico is so safe, and has such a thriving middle class, why are millions of illegals coming to the US? And why are the citizens starting to band together to try to get out of the clutches of the cartels? Why did a whole band get kidnapped and killed if it is such a safe country? Even if some countries with strict gun control are "safer" it doesn't mean that the US would be. In fact, since firearms are used over 2 million times a year in the US to prevent crimes, it is not going too far to suppose that we would be a lot less safe. Plus we have proof with cities like Chicago. What would be a more sensible solution than trying to control other people's lives, would be for all the paranoid gun control people to take control of their own lives, and move to another country that has the kind of laws they like.

      February 7, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Reply
      • Real American

        Because the money & jobs are in the US. What does that have to do with the gun control issue?
        Chicago is still in Illinois which is still in the US – which is where the gun problem is.
        Where are the rights of us Americans who do not want other people carrying concealed weapons or other people owning "assault" style guns (large capacity magazines, easy to convert semi-automatics, etc.).
        We do not want it to be easier for someone to kill us or you.
        We do not want to take away anyone's guns (unless of course you cross the line & become a criminal).
        I want a safe and gun free environment for my children & grand children to grow up in.
        And that is getting harder to find in the great ol' USA nowadays.
        We non-gun owners are still the majority in the US and its honestly getting damn scary with more guns around!
        It has not gotten better ladies & gentlemen...we have to start somehow.

        February 8, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • Don

        Exceptionally well
        said NewsEd9

        February 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Andy

      If you live in Mexico, why don't you find a way to fix your own country before you even think about commenting on ours? And stop doing the whole, Third World, I'm going to blame a first world country for my problems act. It's sad, pathetic and shows a total inability to cope with problems, outside of throwing blame at another nation. Guess, what, maybe America does have a demand for drugs that encourages the cartels, but are you telling me that no one in Mexico uses? You're an absolute joke. Please stay in Mexico.

      February 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Reply
  5. Mark Santos

    I live in Guam, a U.S. island in the Western Pacific. Guam has the toughest gun laws in the entire United States. And these laws make Guam the safest place to live in the whole country. The people in other parts of the U.S. need to learn from Guam. Tough gun laws = safe place to live. Just ask the people of Guam. I know as I'm such an individual.

    February 3, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Reply
    • antonio

      Well, Mark, good on you. Move to Chicago and check that city out.

      February 3, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Reply
      • Real American

        And exactly which "tough" gun laws does Chicago (or Illinois) supposedly have?
        Please enlighten us Antonio...

        February 8, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  6. NewsEd9

    It is a fact that the USA has a very high rate of violence, which often involves the use of firearms. It is also a fact that Americans have a right to own and maintain firearms. Working to reduce the unacceptable prevalence of violence does not require infringement of the Second Amendment. Let us also recognize that there is no reason to advocate gun-control discussions. America has relinquished all forms of responsible deliberation. Our culture cannot debate, and there is nothing to debate.

    February 6, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  7. Don

    Has anyone ever done a study about which race of people in America commits the most crimes? I'm just guessing that the answer would be whoever lives in the large inner cities where GANGS are the culperts.

    February 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  8. luvuall

    So why can't I own a fully automatic weapon? An RPG? Plutonium or Uranium based arms? Those aren't arms protected by the 2nd Amendment? Since most of the gun rights proponents aren't pushing for that at least there's an implication of an upper limit to the application of the 2nd Amendment. Now can we all grow up and compromise?

    February 18, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Reply
    • greenhouse

      Fully automatic firearms have been heavily regulated since 1986, and are prohibitively expensive and hard to get (and that's if your record is spotless).

      This discussion involves types of commonly owned rifles, pistols, and shotguns...NOT nukes and missiles (hence why it is not the focus of the conversation). Nice deflection though. Only gangs use ILLEGALLY obtained fully automatic guns to commit crimes. I am a student at Virginia Tech, so I understand the destruction that can result from the misuse of 10 round magazines from a common handgun. Nothing can ever stop that kind of horrible crime except a gun in the hands of a good guy. Guns are everywhere...the cat's out of the bag, so deal with it. Only a dictator is afraid to govern a well-armed population. What are we, peasants to a king?

      March 13, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Reply
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