01/10/2013 05:07 pm ET Updated Mar 12, 2013

Taking the Silencer Off Gun Research

Does the National Rifle Association fear science?

So it appears from a powerful letter from 100 experts on gun violence that was delivered to Vice President Biden today. As the letter points out, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health have had their hands tied by lobbyists for the NRA.

According to Philip J. Cook, there is little known about the cause and cure of gun violence, which costs this country $100 billion a year. Even with more than four million gunfire injuries over the last 30 years, the NIH has only been able to award three grants to study the cause and prevention of gun violence.

The taxpayers support the CDC because its job is to reduce Americans' deaths and injuries, but though gun violence is the leading cause of death of African Americans ages 15-24, its website doesn't even link to information about firearm violence prevention.

Let us grant that America, with approximately five percent of the world's population, will likely always have half the world's guns. This isn't about taking away the right to bear arms but death and injury prevention. As a strategic matter, the NRA's anti-science position is irrational. If the current level of gun violence without research on prevention continues, greater restrictions on gun ownership are more rather than less likely.

I grew up in upstate New York with guns. Because my father ran a mental hospital I was not allowed to own a gun, but many of my friends owned guns. I shot air rifles and BB guns. And with my cap pistols I sent many bad guys to their reward.

Ironically, science has historically been very good for gun manufacturers. President Lincoln created the National Academy of Sciences specifically to advise him on the best armaments for the Union army. As the National Academy's official history notes, "The demands of the Civil War, which broke out in 1861, were conducive to the formation of a scientific consulting body. Many citizens attempted to contribute to the war effort by submitting inventions and related proposals to the government to do with as it saw fit. In order to expedite the evaluation of these approvals, [Joseph] Henry proposed to the Navy Department the formation of an advisory agency for the testing of new weapons."

If the industry didn't want to silence science, then there's no good reason for them to do so now.