Thoughts and prayers won’t bring them back

In the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida, as members of Congress find new ways not to take action, politicians and pundits of every stripe have come forward with answers: arming teachers, background checks, mental health evaluations, age limits, magazine limits, a better FBI, bans on bumpstocks, bans on AR-15s.

And, of course, blame. The problem is the liberals, the NRA, the media, Republicans, Democrats, the right wing.

An abundance of answers, a paucity of questions. Such as, why do gun massacres keep happening? If guns aren’t the problem, what is? Why are the shooters male? Is there, in this country, a culture of violence?

Suggestion: scientific, apolitical research that treats gun violence like heart disease. What are the causes, what are the cures?

Frustratingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposed that very idea … 22 years ago. Congress, pressured by the NRA, acted swiftly in 1996. Lawmakers passed an amendment to a spending bill that forbade the CDC from using money “to advocate or promote gun control.”

The so-called Dickey Amendment, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) did not explicitly bar research. It forbade advocacy. But Congress also reduced the CDC’s budget by $2.6 million — the amount budgeted for research of gun-related deaths. The study did not happen.

After the 2012 mass shooting by a young man in Aurora, Colo., former Congressman Dickey did an about face. He publicly expressed his regret that he had been, as he put it, “the NRA’s point person in Congress.” He called for the scientific research he had previously blocked.

“All this time that we have had, we would’ve found a solution, in my opinion,” Dickey told National Public Radio in 2015. “And I think it’s a shame that we haven’t.”

Who in the present Congress will support a dispassionate study of gun violence? It would be a start.

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