From Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law (ABC/Clio: 1st ed. 2002).
By Paul Gallant and Joanne Eisen
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) is a federal agency specifically created for reducing injury, disability, death, and their associated costs, outside the workplace. In the late 1980s, and with great vigor in the first half of the 1990s, NCIPC pursued a research agenda which built evidence for gun control. Congress defunded NCIPC's gun research in 1996, on grounds that it was biased and unscientific.
NCIPC was established in June 1992 as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which, in turn, is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. NCIPC grew out of CDC's earlier work on home and injuries in the early 1970s, and on violence prevention starting in 1983. There was intense controversy within the Center for Disease Control (as it was then known) about whether violence could properly be considered a disease.
NCIPC works closely with other federal agencies; national, state, and local organizations; state and local health departments; and research institutions. NCIPC's dispersal of research grants to hospitals and universities has helped build significant political support for NCIPC across the nation.
According to NCIPC, violence is a serious public health problem because of its impact on the well-being of Americans. NCIPC believes that, like disease, violence does not occur randomly and is preventable using techniques based on disease control. Violence prevention strategies include environmental design, product design, human behavior, education, and legislative and regulatory requirements that foster environmental and behavioral change.
The NCIPC's Division of Violence Prevention has four priority areas: youth violence, family and intimate violence, suicide, and firearm injuries.
In 1993, then-Director of the NCIPC, Dr. Mark Rosenberg, articulated his vision for the agency: "a long-term campaign, similar to [those pertaining to] tobacco use and auto safety, to convince Americans that guns are, first and foremost, a public health menace." In 1994, Rosenberg stated, "We need to revolutionize the way we look at guns, like what we did with cigarettes." The CDC incorporated firearm-related violence into the public health model, and considered the reduction of firearm ownership as an important public health goal. The CDC (in the 1980s and early 1990s) and NCIPC (after NCIPC's creation in 1992) bestowed numerous grants for firearms research. Results of some of the CDC or NCIPC-funded studies were heavily publicized by gun control advocates. However, this became an increasing focus of criticism, as the NCIPC was accused of funding biased and scientifically flawed studies. A number of Congressional critics sought to eliminate NCIPC.
In the September 21, 1995, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, editor Dr. Jerome Kassirer commented: "One of the agencies singled out for elimination in the recent spate of Congressional budget cutting was the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control...[and] there is reason to believe that the NCIPC...was far more selectively targeted....Despite howls of protest from the National Rifle Association and its surrogates about the validity of these studies, epidemiologic research on the prevention of injuries - including injuries from guns - has achieved both scientific credibility and public recognition....The NCIPC serves a vitally important function and, in my view, should be preserved....Regrettably the NCIPC story is yet another example of the corrupting influence that powerful lobbies for special interests can exert on members of Congress by tying financial support in election campaigns to particular votes. In this instance, it is science that is at the mercy of this deplorable system; by continuing to permit the votes of our elected representatives to be bought, we threaten research that could greatly benefit our health, especially that of our children."
On the other hand, an article in the Spring 1995 issue of the Tennessee Law Review summarized what was viewed with alarm by many in the medical community as the use of a taxpayer-funded agency to promote a political agenda. In it, Kates, et al., concluded that CDC-funded studies on guns promote "an emotional anti-firearms agenda" and "are so biased and contain so many errors of fact, logic and procedure that we cannot regard them as having a legitimate claim to be treated as scholarly or scientific studies."
In 1996, Congressional hearings were held on the fate of the NCIPC. Among those testifying was Dr. Miguel A. Faria, Jr., a neurosurgeon and Adjunct Professor of Medical History at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Georgia. Stated Faria: "I have yet to see a published report that has been funded by the NCIPC in which any benefits of firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens had been published, even though they are there....if you don't conclude that guns are bad and that they need to be eradicated because they are a 'public health menace', they are not published."
The result was that Congress shifted $2.6 million from NCIPC (the amount NCIPC had spent in 1995 on firearms studies), earmarking those funds for other health research. Congress also mandated that none of the public funds appropriated to the CDC "may be used to advocate or promote gun control."
In May 1996, the CDC announced that, for the first time in over a decade, it would not seek research proposals on firearms injuries, but would instead fund studies that examine the "social and economic factors that contribute to violence." Some of the researchers who had relied on NCIPC grants began, instead, to receive research subsidies from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is part of the Department of Justice.
For further information, contact:
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
4770 Buford Highway, NE
Atlanta, GA 30341-3724
Association of American Physicians & Surgeons
Dr. Miguel A. Faria, Jr., Editor - The Medical Sentinel
1601 N. Tucson Blvd., Suite 9
Tucson, AZ 85716
For Further Reading:
Kates, Don B., Schaffer, Henry E., Lattimer, John K., Murray, George B., and Cassem, Edwin H. 1995. "Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda?" Tennessee Law Review 62(3):513-596.
Kassirer, Jerome P. 1995. "A Partisan Assault on Science - The Threat to the CDC." New England Journal of Medicine 333(12)(September 21):793-794.
House of Representatives; Committee on Appropriations; Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1997. Part 7, Testimony of Members of Congress and Other Interested Individuals and Organizations. (Wash. : Govt. Print. Off., 1996).