Opinion: To tackle gun violence, we need to fund research

Gun Rights

Regarding “Editorial: It’s time to get MADD about everyday gun violence,” (Dec. 1): The Houston Chronicle editorial board is on the right track when it compares gun violence to drunk driving, as both are preventable. But we can’t forget that responding to a public health crisis requires research. 

The federal government has spent decades supporting research into the automotive policies that can save lives, from seatbelt mandates to drunk driving laws and proper road design. In fact, the U.S. spends roughly $1,000 per motor vehicle death studying ways to make our streets safer. In comparison, we only spend $63 per firearm death studying ways to save lives from gun violence. The problem stems from the 1996 Dickey Amendment, in which Congress effectively prohibited the federal government from researching firearm safety policies. That changed in 2019 when Congress allocated $25 million each to the CDC and NIH in annual appropriations to study effective ways to prevent firearm injuries. However, more will be needed to close the two-decade research gap. A study by Arnold Ventures and the Joyce Foundation estimated it will cost $600 million over five years to answer the most pressing policy questions and build out the data infrastructure necessary to collect objective information about guns in the United States.

It isn’t enough to get mad about gun violence. Change starts with adequate funding for research, or else policymakers may end up spending time and money on programs that simply don’t work.

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Asheley Van Ness, director of criminal justice, Arnold Ventures

We should hope that state Sen. John Whitmire read this editorial about gun violence. A recent Chronicle analysis showed a record number of juvenile deaths by gun violence this year. In Harris County, 88 percent of the gun violence victims were Black and Hispanic kids.

In a city whose majority population is people of color we should expect a Houston state senator with mayoral ambitions and with such a majority in his district to have a plan for public safety as was promised in the campaign kickoff story. And he is well suited to do so given his chairmanship of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

It should include a measure to repeal the permitless gun carry law opposed by much of Houston-area law enforcement. So long  as we have kids killing kids, we should expect a bill to raise the minimum age to buy an assault weapon to 21. With 19 states and the District of Columbia using red flag laws, Texas could also permit a judge to remove weapons from the hands of people deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Financial  incentives for such laws were recently provided by Congress in the last gun safety legislation passed with bipartisan support. Of course Whitmire would need to overcome the opposition to such laws by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

If Whitmire demonstrates his commitment to public safety in next year’s legislative session by addressing these issues he will be a mayoral candidate worthy of support.

David A. Jones, Houston

Regarding “Opinion: Responsible gun-owners need to advocate for gun safety,” (Dec. 4): Julie Marinucci wrote that responsible gun owners need to advocate for gun safety and join groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. 

What needs to be realized is that Texas is a very Republican state that is in lockstep with the NRA and that the very citizens of Texas vote to keep loose gun laws. Unfortunately, as long as the relative minority of gun worshippers maintain their influence in state elections, you will never see any change. Abbott, Patrick and Paxton have complete control and it’s not going to change. The only way it will change is if enough Democrats get super involved at the grassroots level and work to increase their base. That is where it has to start. Also unfortunate is the fact that starting at the bottom means it will take lots of years before we see the payoff. How many more senseless killings have to happen in the meantime?

Connie Huch, Houston

Regarding “Pitts: Why is America like this?” (Dec. 4): I read Mr. Pitts’ column. I try to read his column every week although I don’t often agree with him. In this case, I agree with his point that we may never know the why of what he calls “knucklehead shootings.” 

I was dismayed, however, by his subtle emphasis on race when he said, the “motives are often racial or cultural hatred” and  “whatever the motive is, whether it was that the french fries were cold or the shooter hated Black people…”  I spent 10-minutes worth of research on every example he gave, from Atlanta to Tulsa. In all cases, the identified shooter was Black. So why insinuate that these were hate crimes? Why fan that flame?

Sandi Heysinger, Houston

Regarding “Essay: The burden of being young and Chinese,” (Dec. 4): The Chronicle editorial board did its readership great service by juxtaposing Mr. Pitts’ commentary one page before a picture of a protester being detained by government officials in China. Per Pitts’ way of thinking: Standing your ground is a foundation of the American myth, so it’s hard to overstate the allure that must carry for a certain type of person. For them, to own a gun is to own swagger, to know that nobody’s going to mess with you or move you off your spot.

The Founding Fathers felt that citizens should be able to protect themselves against the government and any other threat to their wellbeing. The Second Amendment granted citizens that right — giving them the ability to defend themselves and their property. 

China prohibits any unit or individual from holding, manufacturing (including altering, assembling), trading, transporting, renting or lending firearms. Only the state military police, correctional and judicial organs can be equipped with guns.

I’m sure Chinese protestors wish they could protect themselves against their government’s abuse of their personal freedom.

What do you think, Leonard?

Thomas M. (Mickey) ONeal, Houston

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