Pressure is mounting on the CDC’s over its decision to remove self-defense stats from its gun facts website.
This week, letters were sent to the CDC director by numerous high-ranking Republicans. They include demands for answers from some of those who will directly oversee the agency in the new Congress. And we have an idea of how the CDC plans to defend its decision to scrub the stats after pressure from gun-control advocates.
We also have a special episode of the podcast featuring one of those advocates. Mark Bryant joins the podcast to answer questions about his role in the successful campaign to wipe the 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year estimate from the CDC’s website.
That’s in addition to our earlier episode with the Manhattan Institute’s Robert VerBruggen who argues the process, which was hidden from public view until we reported on FOIAd emails about it, hurts the CDC’s credibility. He described it as unethical regardless of where you come down on the debate over how best to measure self-defense incidents.
Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman explains why that ethical lapse is going to be particularly harmful for the agency’s already-strained relationship with gun owners.
We also had legal news out of California with the state’s fee-shifting law struck down as unconstitutional, and Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) praising the decision as a win despite his attempts to defend the law.
New Jersey also enacted new sweeping gun-carry restrictions this week. They mostly copy New York’s post-Bruen effort, which has faced continuous legal trouble since it was passed. Jake explains why New Jersey’s law might be even more strict, and vulnerable to court challenges.
Republican Senators Demand Answers From CDC Over Defensive Gun Use Stats
By Stephen Gutowski
Five senators have asked the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to respond to questions surrounding the agency’s decision to scrub gun defensive use stats from its website at the behest of gun-control advocates.
The Republican senators told CDC Director Rochelle Walensky they believe the move damaged the agency’s credibility in a letter sent on Thursday. They asked her to turn over any documentation related to the private meeting CDC officials held with the advocates on September 15th, 2021, which The Reload first reported. The senators said the scrubbing of the self-defense estimates and a link to a CDC-commissioned review of them amounted to an act of censorship that left Americans less informed about the issue, something they said was the goal of the advocates involved.
“As reported in an article recently published in The Reload, the CDC opted to delete a reference to a study regarding DGUs after an extensive lobbying effort from gun control organizations including Gun Violence Archive, Newtown Action Alliance, and GVPedia,” the letter said. “The study estimated DGUs as frequently as 2.5 million times per year in the United States. These groups argued the estimates have created a roadblock to enacting further restrictions on the Second Amendment.”
Senators Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), Bill Cassidy (R., La.), Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), and Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) signed on to the letter.
Last week, we broke news of the CDC removing gun defense use estimates and a review paper it commissioned from its website after meeting privately with a group of advocates.
This week, we have one of those advocates on the show. Mark Bryant, executive director of the Gun Violence Archive, was involved in the private meeting with CDC officials. He attacked Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck’s estimate of 2.5 million defensive gun uses per year as misleading. And he said it was preventing new gun restrictions from making progress.
The CDC initially rebuffed the request from Bryant, GVPedia’s Devin Hughes, and Newtown Action Alliance’s Po Murray. However, they eventually changed course and deleted the defensive use estimates from their website without getting input from other points of view or making a public announcement of the edit.
Mark joins the show to explain and defend his role in the conversation, which he says he was added to late in the process. He argued his only concern in the conversation was with the accuracy of the data.
Things got a bit heated when I challenged him on a number of points and vice versa…
You can listen to the show on your favorite podcasting app or by clicking here. Video of the show is also available on our YouTube channel. Reload Members got this extra episode on Thursday. Everyone else got access on Friday.
In addition to our bonus podcast episode with Mark Bryant, we also had the Manhattan Institute’s Robert VerBruggen on earlier this week to talk about the CDC situation. VerBruggen has long studied defensive gun use and had a very different take on the CDC scrubbing estimates from their website. Hear why he thinks it’s a scandal.
The Garden State will become the latest jurisdiction to test the boundaries of the Supreme Court’s latest gun-carry decision.
The New Jersey state senate passed Assembly Bill 4769 by a 21-16 vote on Monday. The wide-ranging bill would create liability insurance requirements, increase carry permit fees, and impose numerous “sensitive places” restrictions where lawful carry is prohibited. It now heads to Governor Phil Murphy’s (D.) desk. He is expected to sign it into law.
“The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year stripped away the right for states to regulate who is able to carry concealed weapons in public,” Senator Linda Greenstein (D.), a prime sponsor of the bill, said following the final vote. “We must do everything we can to make sure New Jersey families remain safe and protected while enjoying all New Jersey has to offer. I believe this bill is a promising step in the right direction.”
New Jersey just enacted one of the country’s most restrictive concealed carry regimes. But it may actually go further than they intended.
Following New York’s lead, New Jersey lawmakers voted on Monday to make the state the second to pass sweeping new concealed carry rules in response to the Supreme Court. By Wednesday, Governor Phil Murphy (D.) signed it into law.
In some ways, New Jersey’s measure goes even further than its inspiration. While it adopted many of the same tactics—including a broad range of locations deemed too sensitive for licensed carry and a default gun ban on private property unless otherwise permitted by the owner—its license application requirements contain a novel provision: a public carry insurance mandate.
According to the text of the legislation, New Jersey residents intent on carrying a gun must “maintain liability insurance coverage insuring against loss resulting from liability imposed by law for bodily injury, death, and property damage sustained by any person arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of a firearm carried in public.” The law further stipulates that the minimum coverage required is a $300,000 policy to account for “injury to or death of more than one person and for damage to property, in any one incident.”
The law makes New Jersey the first state to attach an insurance mandate to gun carry.
California’s attempt to discourage legal challenges to its gun laws has been dealt a fatal blow in court.
U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the “fee-shifting” provision in California’s law mimicking Texas’ bounty-style abortion ban on Monday. Benitez ruled the provision “substantially chills First Amendment rights.”
“This Court concludes that the purpose and effect of § 1021.11 is to trench on a citizen’s right of access to the courts and to discourage the peaceful vindication of an enumerated constitutional right,” Benitez wrote in his opinion. “Because the state fee-shifting statute undermines a citizen’s constitutional rights, it is this Court’s role to declare its invalidity and enjoin its threat.”
The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) involvement in gun research has long been controversial in American politics. News of the agency holding a private meeting with gun-control advocates to shape the data it publishes on its website will only worsen that polarization.
Emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, first reported by The Reload, provided new insight into the agency’s decision to remove a CDC-commissioned review of studies from its website. That paper noted estimates of defensive gun uses (DGUs) by published scholars range between 60,000 and 2.5 million times per year. And the emails show the decision to scrub it was made after a months-long pressure campaign from a trio of advocates.
The advocates focused their objections on the high-end estimate that retired Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck established in the 1990s. They claimed Kleck’s survey results are misleading, repeating decades-old critiques of the research. However, Mark Bryant of the Gun Violence Archive, one of the advocates in the meeting, also argued it should be removed because its publication made passing gun-control laws harder.
“And while that very small study by Gary Kleck has been debunked repeatedly by everyone from all sides of this issue [even Kleck] it still remains canon by gun rights folks and their supporting politicians and is used as a blunt instrument against gun safety regulations every time there is a state or federal level hearing,” Bryant wrote in an email to CDC officials. “Put simply, in the time that study has been published as ‘a CDC Study’ gun violence prevention policy has ground to a halt, in no small part because of the misinformation that small study provided.”
The emails show that the agency initially stood by its description of DGU estimates–a decision some scholars who study the topic described as “balanced”–until a previously undisclosed meeting took place between the advocates and CDC officials. Following the meeting, though, the CDC decided its webpage would be more “succinct” if it removed the range of estimates and the link to its review of studies on DGUs.
The consequences of the CDC’s private coordination with openly-partisan gun-control advocates for public trust in the institution could be severe. News of the surreptitious meeting and subsequent change risks damaging its reputation among gun owners in ways not seen in decades.
Outside The Reload
That’s it for this week in guns.
Merry Christmas! I’ll see you all next week.