Editorials

How about using science to inform gun safety decisions?

President Donald Trump with National Rifle Associations (NRA) Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre.
President Donald Trump with National Rifle Associations (NRA) Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre. AP

Crazy talk is spreading that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a hoax. A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms official has issued a paper urging looser gun restrictions, including lifting the ban on gun silencers.

Offering a glimpse of what’s to come with Republicans in charge, the House of Representatives last week voted 235-180 to roll back an Obama administration regulation intended to keep guns away from people so mentally disordered that they cannot work, and so depend on Social Security benefits.

Then there was last week’s gun research out of UC Davis. Lawmakers here, if not beyond, take note.

The UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program study makes clear the connection between alcohol abuse and gun crimes. Gun owners convicted of driving under the influence and other alcohol-related crimes were four to five times more likely to be arrested in the future for firearm-related crimes.

The UC Davis study linking gun and alcohol abuse, is shocking – not for its findings, but because so few like it have been done. That’s by design.

The study in the publication Injury Prevention Handgun said purchasers with only one DUI conviction and no arrests or convictions for other crimes were 4.2 times more likely to be arrested for a firearm-related or violent crime than people with no history of alcohol abuse. The study is shocking, though not for its findings. One might assume that alcohol abusers make less-than-responsible gun owners. The shock is that more studies of its type aren’t done. That’s by design.

University of California President Janet Napolitano said last year she will award $5 million to the UC Davis Firearm Violence Research Center, headed by Dr. Garen Wintemute, an author of the latest study. Once operating, the research center should become a national model. Of course, it won’t, so long as the National Rifle Association, which spent $50 million to sway the 2016 election, controls Congress’ Republican majority.

At the NRA’s behest, Congress 20 years ago restricted funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for gun-related research. A National Institutes of Health gun research program, begun in 2013, lapsed last month. In 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a 10-year restriction on gun ownership by people convicted of multiple alcohol and drug abuse crimes. He was reasonably unpersuaded of the link between the non-felonies and gun misuse, he wrote in vetoing Senate Bill 755 by then-Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis.

Now that more science shows the connection, lawmakers should take up where Wolk left off. At least in California, perhaps science can inform gun policy.

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