I complained mightily recently about the terrible bias revealed in The Trace’s coverage of a new academic study of gun ownership. That coverage was couched in the common complaint that the CDC doesn’t conduct research on gun violence.
Although it is clear that Congress choked off funding for gun violence research at the CDC in the 1990s, I still find this complaint a bit odd now and in conjunction with this study since (1) this is a study of gun ownership not gun violence so the CDC wouldn’t be involved anyway, (2) the last major study of gun ownership was not funded by the CDC anyway, (3) the National Institute of Justice, which did fund the last major study of gun ownership has continued to fund firearms research, (3) the National Science Foundation funds basic scientific research in sociology, for example Andrew Papachristos’s excellent work on networks of gun violence (and perhaps other work that I am unaware of), (4) the National Institute of Health funds research on violence (including violence with guns), and (5) as one reader of this blog pointed out, the CDC itself has recently dabbled again in research on gun violence.
To highlight lack of funding from one source ignores the many ways that scholars can have their research funded, particularly if they attempt to understand the causes of violence per se, as opposed to just looking at gun violence from the perspective of gun control. For example, like the scholars at John Jay College who are studying violence in New York City, including both gun and knife violence.
Moreover, the lack of federal funding of research does not mean that research cannot be conducted at all. Much of the large scale research in my previous area of study — religion — is not funded by public monies but by private foundations like the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Lilly Endowment, and the Templeton Foundation. I conducted research on religion for 20 years and never received a single federal or state dollar to do it.
Of course, I was curious to know who funded the Harvard/Northeastern study of gun ownership since the official media promoters of the study (The Trace and The Guardian) did not say. I Tweeted at all of the relevant parties asking who had funded the study, and received no answer. Fortunately, following a lead on the Zero Hedge blog, I was able to find a copy of an unpublished conference paper on “The Stock and Flow of US Firearms: Results from the 2015 National Firearms Survey.”
It turns out that this paper was presented at a one day conference hosted by the Russell Sage Foundation on “The Underground Gun Market: Implications for Regulation and Enforcement.” Many of the other presenters spoke about work that was funded by the National Institute of Justice.
What about the National Firearms Survey? According to the paper: “This research was supported by grants from the Fund for a Safer Future, the Joyce Foundation, and the Veteran’s Administration.”
So, it was funded by a combination of private and public sources.