Studying patterns in gun crime, how criminals get guns, and even the effectiveness of gun-safety practices is becoming increasingly difficult, due to a decade-old ban that limits research on gun violence. This ban denies researchers, prosecutors, and even police access to federal gun data. “The laws prohibit the public disclosure of a gun’s sales history, make that data inadmissible in court, require the Justice Department to destroy background-check records within 24 hours and prohibit the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from requiring gun dealers to check their inventories annually for theft.”
The nationwide debate surrounding gun rights and gun violence will remain inhibited until this ban is lifted. President Obama commissioned an independent, nonprofit research organization, the Institute of Medicine, to report on American ignorance of gun facts. The study found that even “serious scholars” know little about gun violence, which “jeopardizes public safety and health.” The research ban makes reliable gun data scarce for police, prosecutors and public heath officials, who are attempting to combat the 30,000 gun deaths a year. Gun-tracing data in court is completely inadmissible, which prevents criminals from being brought to justice and allows for straw trading.
While this ban has aided the NRA in their anti-research agenda, it restricts those who are proponents of better gun laws and policies, as they have few reliable facts to cite in the debate. President Obama has attempted to aid research via executive action, to some effect. Still, academics still lack money and data.