House Speaker Paul Ryan’s classic evasion of responsibility for or reckoning with the Parkland school massacre included this deceptive line:
Congress, Ryan said in a radio interview, needs to “take a breath and collect the facts.” The Republican leader added, “We don’t just knee-jerk before we even have all the facts and the data.”
Collect the facts? Have facts and data before responding? What a great idea! If only Republicans hadn’t spent more than two decades standing between scientists and gun data:
In 1996, the Republican-majority Congress threatened to strip funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unless it stopped funding research into firearm injuries and deaths. The National Rifle Association accused the CDC of promoting gun control. As a result, the CDC stopped funding gun-control research – which had a chilling effect far beyond the agency, drying up money for almost all public health studies of the issue nationwide.
As regular readers may recall, it’s common knowledge that the NRA and its allies have fought to kill any kind of restrictions on firearm ownership. What’s less recognized is the fact that the gun lobby also helped block basic data collection, to the point that there’s “no current scientific consensus about guns and violence,” in large part because the NRA “has been able to neutralize empirical cases for control.”
We should believe Paul Ryan about wanting facts and data, in other words, the day he uses his position to promote research on gun violence. Until that day, his warnings about not knee-jerking until we have all the facts and data are just classic Paul Ryan weaseling, trying to sound like his evasion on the issues is wonky and empirical rather than craven and cowardly.