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Mar 09, 2018
In The News

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Written by: Editorial Board
Published by: Arkansas Democrat Gazette 

Those who knew him said Jay Dickey came to regret the so-called Dickey Amendment, and we don’t doubt it. Crazy Jay, as certain inky wretches used to call him, might have gone off in all directions at times, but did he ever meet anybody he didn’t like? If so, he wasn’t rude enough to say so in our earshot.

He was the type of man who ran as a Republican in Arkansas when it was a one-party state and brought his dogs to official-ish meetings. One helped cement his nickname, the other–you can guess which–should be an example for the rest of us to follow. How can anybody be disagreeable while scratching a big dog’s neck?

The late Congressman Dickey (he died April 20, 2017) is back in the news today for something he championed in 1996: a particular piece of legislative language called the Dickey Amendment, which was written into the books saying: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

It sounded reasonable at the time. The CDC should be in the business of medicine, disease and facts, not political advocacy. There are plenty of folks in that line of work already.

But the Dickey Amendment, dispatches say, had a chilling effect on firearms research. It may because of the way it’s been interpreted over the years. More’s the pity.

With the latest school shooting down in Florida, some folks in and out of Washington are trying to find measures that will help prevent yet another one. And we don’t mean spending the next three decades debating the meaning of the Second Amendment or complaining about America’s gun culture. There really are some things that can be accomplished now. If only our betters tried harder.

Before Rep. Dickey left us, he helped pen an op-ed for the Washington Post on the subject. In part, the column, printed in 2015, said that “funding for research into gun-violence prevention should be dramatically increased.”

That can be done–should be done–without turning the CDC into either the NRA or the Brady Center. Just the facts, ma’am. That should be the objective of the good researchers/doctors/world-class experts at our nation’s Centers for Disease Control, which has proven over a number of years and crises that it knows what it’s doing. Our trust in the CDC is what they call marrow-deep.

A lot of things have happened since 1996. To name a few: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and now Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla. If the Dickey Amendment needs to go, or if Congress needs to clarify its meaning, so be it. Congress is in the business of passing Acts of Congress.

The best advice might come from a particular congressman from Jonesboro, Ark., who, like his constituents, knows about school shootings: “Tragically, in Jonesboro we are deeply familiar with the devastating effects of school shootings,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford. “School safety and Second Amendment rights aren’t mutually exclusive, there is more that we can do to prevent school shootings without infringing on our constitutional Second Amendment rights. I think that starts with better enforcement and re-examining the Dickey Amendment in order to get good data concerning the role mental health plays in gun violence.”

Indeed.

There’s been a lot of talk, and only talk, over the last few weeks about “common sense gun laws,” and what can be done, if anything, by our government to figure this thing out. Gathering statistics on gun deaths, any related mental illnesses of the shooters, types of weapons used, whether large magazines were used, etc., should be one more thing We the People can do now, or tomorrow, given the political will. How can more information be anything but helpful?

To be forewarned in this matter is to be forearmed. Figuratively.

Let’s do this.

“The best advice might come from a particular congressman from Jonesboro, Ark., who, like his constituents, knows about school shootings: “Tragically, in Jonesboro we are deeply familiar with the devastating effects of school shootings,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford. “School safety and Second Amendment rights aren’t mutually exclusive, there is more that we can do to prevent school shootings without infringing on our constitutional Second Amendment rights.”

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