When he helped pass a restriction of federal funding for gun violence research in 1996, the goal wasn't to be so suffocating, he insisted. But the measure was just that, dampening federal research for years and discouraging researchers from entering the field.
Now, as mass shootings pile up, including last week's killing of nine at a community college in Oregon, Dickey admitted to carrying a sense of responsibility for progress not made.
"I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time," Dickey, an Arkansas Republican, told the Huffington Post in an interview. "I have regrets."
He said the law was over-interpreted. Now, he looks at simple advances in highway safety — safety barriers, for example — and wonders what could have been done for guns.Private research has continued. Gun homicide is the most common type of homicide and gun ownership correlates with gun homicide. (Whatever you do, don't say those GUNS killed anyone, however.) Guns account for about half of suicides. Do they deter crime?
"If we had somehow gotten the research going, we could have somehow found a solution to the gun violence without there being any restrictions on the Second Amendment," Dickey said. "We could have used that all these years to develop the equivalent of that little small fence."
They found no evidence that states with more households with guns led to timid criminals. In fact, firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least. Firearm robbery increased with every increase in gun ownership except in the very highest quintile of gun-owning states (the difference in that cluster was not statistically significant). Firearm homicide was 2.8 times more common in states with the most guns versus states with the least.
The results do need to be interpreted with caution — this study method proves that more guns are linked to more gun crime and overall homicide, but not that access to guns directly causes this criminal uptick, said study researcher David Hemenway, the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.
"This study suggests that it's really hard to find evidence that where there are more guns, there are less crimes, but you can easily find evidence that where there are a lot more guns, there are a lot more gun crimes," Hemenway told Live Science.