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CDC Under Fire for Burying Gun Violence Study

Members of Congress are demanding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) restore data on its website from a study that found law-abiding citizens protect themselves with 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year in the United States.

In a letter to the CDC  published on December 19, Reps. August Pfluger (R-TX) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) requested all data on defensive gun use (DGU) in the United States be immediately made available to the American public. The letter criticized the agency’s decision to remove a CDC-commissioned study titled “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence.”

“Removing studies without explanation in an apparent effort to curry favor with political allies … will only further deteriorate public trust,” the lawmakers wrote. “The gun control debate is not about hobbies or sports. It is about protecting one of the most fundamental rights afforded to the American people. There is a difference between providing information to educate consumers, and censoring facts that third-party groups may disagree with politically.”

‘Shamefully Lying’

In a separate press statement, Stefanik decried the CDC’s “far left anti-gun agenda” and accused the Biden administration of lying to the public.

“The Biden Administration is shamefully lying to the American people and hiding the facts of how law-abiding citizens use their constitutionally protected Second Amendment rights to keep our families and communities safe,” Stefanik said. “The American people deserve the truth, not more partisan action from the CDC,” Stefanik said.

Millions of Cases, Ignored

The hallmark study on GDU, conducted by Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck in 1992, is considered foundational by groups supporting the right to bear firearms. Subsequent studies over the years have produced similarly high numbers, conservatively calculated at between one and two million cases of defensive gun use per year.

The most comprehensive dataset released in recent years found an annual DGU rate of about 1.6 million cases.

The CDC was discovered to have removed the data in December 2022 after The Reload obtained emails between gun control advocates and the CDC. A December 15 opinion piece on the topic at Bearing Arms provided more publicity about the CDC’s action. Fox News also reported on the removal of the data.

The activists would not tolerate even a lowball estimate, instead demanding the entire subject of defensive gun use be purged from the CDC website, Kleck told Health Care News.

“There are now 21 professional surveys using probability samples of the U.S. adult population, including surveys conducted by very pro-gun-control organizations,” said Kleck. “It’s pretty clear that the [study] sponsorship doesn’t affect the results. The CDC’s response to unfavorable data is to remove it from the public eye.”

‘Trying to Get Their Own Data’

Kleck’s study has been criticized by gun-control proponents but remains an authentic benchmark of DGU over time, says Amy Swearer, a legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

“Kleck’s study is not an outdated dataset,” said Swearer. “This is something that’s continued to be found time and time again by a number of researchers. When the CDC pulled these numbers, they took away any benchmark and said no one actually knows the exact number [of DGUs] per year. … I’ve never seen an agency do that.”

The CDC also removed references from a 2013 report by the Obama administration which surveyed not only Kleck’s study but nearly two dozen others and found similarly high numbers of DGU across the country. Swearer says this is an unprecedented action.

“[The CDC] was doing their own studies and surveys, trying to get their own data on gun defensive use, and then decided not to publish it [when results] were not favorable for gun control,” said Swearer.

‘Very One-Sided Studies’ at CDC

In the early 1990s, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, a statute forbidding the CDC and other federal agencies from using federal funding to advocate gun control. In what Swearer calls a “decades-long battle,” the CDC has continued to do just that.

“The CDC has an internal agenda to push for gun control,” said Swearer. “They were coming out with very one-sided studies, not just for specific policies that [claimed] having fewer guns was a good thing. This has been an ongoing thing with the CDC. Now you’re seeing it rear its ugly head again in such a profound way. … This is historical.”

The CDC is doing an end-run around Congress because it can’t get what it wants through honest means, says Swearer.

“When you address the right to bear firearms as a constitutional right, ensuring that law-abiding Americans can defend and protect themselves, it is a hard angle for gun control,” said Swearer. “So instead, the CDC continues to frame gun violence as a public-health issue.”

‘The Result Was Censorship’

“It distorts the public’s view of the public health issue if [data] is removed for political reasons,” Kleck said. “Email exchanges indicated CDC staff caved from external pressure from gun control advocates. So it was for political reasons. The result was censorship.”

With continuing reports of significant declines in the public’s trust of the CDC, the censorship of a politically charged topic such as gun control exemplifies how the agency has “shot itself in the foot politically,” said Kleck.

“It corrodes public trust in what should be a credible agency,” said Swearer.

Ashley Bateman (bateman.ae@googlemail.com) writes from Virginia.


Ashley Bateman
Ashley Bateman
Ashley Bateman is a policy reform writer for The Heartland Institute and contributor to The Federalist as well as a blog writer for Ascension Press. Her work has been featured in The Washington Times, The Daily Caller, The New York Post, The American Thinker and numerous other publications. She previously worked as an adjunct scholar for The Lexington Institute and as editor, writer and photographer for The Warner Weekly, a publication for the American military community in Bamberg, Germany. Ashley earned a BA in literature from the College of William and Mary.


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