Jay Dickey remembered for a change of heart on gun research | Arkansas Blog

Jay Dickey remembered for a change of heart on gun research


JAY DICKEY: A change of heart proves an important legacy. - OBU
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  • JAY DICKEY: A change of heart proves an important legacy.
The New York Times this morning carried a prominent obituary on former U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey of Pine Bluff, who died last week at age 77.  The reason for the Times' attention was expressed in the headline:

Jay Dickey, Arkansas Lawmaker Who Blocked Gun Research, Dies at 77
The obituary is a retelling of Dickey's successful effort to prevent the federal government from investigating the public health effects of gun violence. He famously changed position, after he'd left Congress, to say the research could have been done without harm to legitimate gun owners. Such research remains poison to the gun lobby.

The Times' recitation of that episode  remains relevant today. The Arkansas legislature, for example, is resistant to anything that smacks of gun safety. It refused even to limit gun access to people convicted of domestic battery. From today's Times obituary:

By then a consultant and lawyer, Mr. Dickey wrote an op-ed article in The Washington Post with Mark Rosenberg, who, until the Dickey amendment was passed, had been responsible for research on gun violence as the director of the disease control centers’ National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (He later became chief executive of the nonprofit humanitarian agency Task Force for Global Health.)

Mr. Dickey and Mr. Rosenberg wrote that while about the same number of Americans died from guns as from automobile accidents, the government spent $240 million a year on traffic safety research but virtually nothing on firearm safety.

The automobile studies, they pointed out, had been effective, credited with saving more than 350,000 lives since 1975 and producing practical results like child restraints, seatbelts, frontal airbags, highway dividers, a minimum drinking age and motorcycle helmets. Yet firearms safety research had been neglected, they said, even though research suggested that “childproof locks, safe-storage devices and waiting periods save lives.”

“As a consequence,” they concluded, “U.S. scientists cannot answer the most basic question: What works to prevent firearm injuries? We don’t know whether having more citizens carry guns would decrease or increase firearm deaths; or whether firearm registration and licensing would make inner-city residents safer or expose them to greater harm.

“We don’t know whether a ban on assault weapons or large-capacity magazines, or limiting access to ammunition, would have saved lives in Aurora, or would make it riskier for people to go to a movie. And we don’t know how to effectively restrict access to firearms by those with serious mental illness.”
Words worth remembering.

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