In response to the mass shooting in El Paso this weekend, in which a 21-year-old white supremacist terrorist from Plano, Texas, opened fire on a Walmart and the Cielo Vista Mall killing 20 people and injuring dozens, Texas Senator John Cornyn took to Twitter. “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong,” he wrote. “Sadly, there are some issues, like homelessness and these shootings, where we simply don’t have all the answers. We have made progress: by improving the broken background check system, improving access to mental health treatment, by hardening soft targets like our schools, by enhanced training for law enforcement and mental health professionals.”
This is bullshit. There could be answers. In fact, John Cornyn and his GOP colleagues could have decided to get more answers every single time the fiscal budget is debated and passed. Since 1996, the Dickey Amendment, an amendment that barred the Center for Disease Control from studying the effects of gun ownership and its relationship to gun death, injury, and violence, has been the rule of law. The Dickey Amendment was largely interpreted to be a wholesale ban on gun injury and death research by the CDC, and shut down any studies by the CDC that looked into it.
A month after the Parkland shooting in 2018, in which 17 people died in six minutes, Congress clarified the language in the Dickey Rider, but not by much. That language now clarifies that the CDC can conduct research into gun violence, but cannot use government funds to advocate for gun control. That means that while the CDC could find that gun violence is a huge problem and that gun control is the only way to stop it, they would not be able to tell the government to do anything about it or be able to advocate any public health measures to limit gun violence. They would not be allowed to research gun violence that could result in the knowledge that gun control is necessary with taxpayer and government funds. That means the CDC still cannot research the link between gun ownership and gun violence.
So, in regards to John Cornyn’s tweet, answers are out there. Everyone knows what they are. But Cornyn, who, mind you, has an A+ rating from the NRA, alongside his GOP colleagues, refuses to let anyone look for one.
Cornyn is a powerful Senator. He has been in office since 2002, some 17 years. It’s amazing that he was able to peck out this Tweet, seeing as he’s acting like his hands are tied. In fact, Cornyn could call on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring Senators back from their recess to vote on the universal background checks bill passed in the House in February, a bill that McConnell, who refers to himself as the ‘Grim Reaper’ of the Senate, has refused to hold a vote on. He could direct his state legislators to start looking into better background checks or gun control in his own state of Texas. He could start calling for a new approach to the way we fund research into gun violence — he could call that we start researching it at all.
This is not a new move for Cornyn. After the Santa Fe High School shooting, in which a 17-year-old killed 10 people and injured 14, Cornyn tweeted an article calling the shooter a ‘good boy’ who was ‘mistreated at school.’ After the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017, in which 27 people died and 20 were injured, Cornyn simply wrote: “Truly heartbreaking news in #Sutherland Springs. Please say a prayer for First Baptist congregation, first responders & the community there.” Cornyn seems to be unwilling to do anything at all that might curb gun violence for his constituents and human beings more broadly.
Consider this: the CDC, responsible for understanding leading causes of death and injury in the United States, is not allowed to study the third-leading cause of death of American children. Forty-thousand people die from gun violence in America every year. Since 1996, 26,000 American children have died from gunshot wounds. Kids in America die from gun violence at a rate of 36 times higher than other high income countries. This year, there have been more mass shootings than days passed. That is sickening.
Experts agree that the lack of research into gun violence engenders serious problems. The Journal of Behavioral Medicine published a study in 2019 which its authors bluntly stated that the lack of government funding into gun violence is hurting Americans. “Policymakers and other stakeholders often lack the evidence they need to craft, evaluate, and make informed decisions regarding firearm policies,” they wrote. “This should not be interpreted as the policies not having an effect, but rather that the research is often too sparse to measure impact.”
In other words? The research into gun violence needs to take place, so that policy makers can enact meaningful gun policy to stop mass shootings from happening in the future, and to limit gun violence in general.
It looks like this is what John Cornyn and the GOP want, after all. After the House passed a universal background checks measure, Mitch McConnell, the GOP Senate Majority Leader, refused to take it up for a vote. The Dickey Amendment still has a chokehold on understanding how guns are linked to gun deaths. Meanwhile, people are dying. There could be answers. The GOP and the NRA just doesn’t want to give them to Americans. Cornyn, and the rest of the Republican Senators with any say, need to do more.
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