America’s foremost gun lobby doesn’t want us to know more about guns.

That’s the allegation of gun violence experts and former officials at the National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, or NCICP, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that used to function as the leading federal agency supporting firearms studies.

As reported by The New York Times, because of fierce opposition from the National Rifle Association to the NCICP’s work, funding has significantly dried up, and the agency is unable to tackle the sorts of issues raised by recent violence in Tucson. “We’ve been stopped from answering the basic questions,” said Mark Rosenberg, former director of the NCICP.

Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, says that his group isn’t against research, but accuses the NCICP of a bias against guns.

“Our concern is not with legitimate medical science,” he said. “Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated.”

The dispute between the agency and the gun lobby dates to the 1990s, when Rosenberg and others sought to increase the study of guns as a public health issue. One study, for instance, found that the presence of a handgun in a home didn’t make inhabitants safer, but rather increased the likelihood of a murder using the weapon.

In 1996, lawmakers first moved to strip the NCICP budget of its $2.6 million for gun-related studies and later redirected the funds to other research. Congress also put in place an extraordinary restriction on the parent agency barring it from using funds “to advocate or promote gun control.”

The National Institute of Justice, part of the Justice Department, also used to finance firearms research but that money has dwindled as well. The Times said Stephen Teret, founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, estimated that the amount of money available for firearms research was a quarter of what it once was.

As a result, many pertinent questions –for example, how effective are stricter background checks on gun buyers?– remain unanswered.

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