State and Federal Laws Create Unreliable Gun Data

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

In a country plagued by gun violence, the restrictive laws surrounding gun permit statistics and the lack of federal funding for gun violence research have created a gaping hole in our knowledge of guns in the US. In 1996 all federal funding for gun violence research was cut and since then numerous state laws have been passed that make “once-public data on gun ownership confidential.” This has caused most of our data on guns to come from private university studies instead of the federal government, which creates problems when it comes to solving the epidemic of gun violence in the US.

Twenty-eight different states have banned the use of gun permit records, and the most notable of these instances is Louisiana. Despite being one of the worst states in the nation for gun related deaths, in 2013 the state moved to “[repeal] state bans on machine guns…[make] concealed-carry permits confidential and allowed for issuance of lifetime concealed-carry permits.” They also criminalized the release of any permit record information.

Congress has not helped much either: Congressional leaders have consistently voted against firearms research bills , stipulated research parameters for the Centers for Disease Control, and in 1996 cutting $2.6m in funding that had been earmarked for the CDC for firearms research. For nineteen years, Congress has prohibited the CDC from researching gun violence.

“Preventing research because you worry about the outcome is cowardly,” stated New York Democrat Nita Lowey, who believes that a big obstacle to the restoration of CDC firearms research funding is the National Rifle Association’s opposition to it. “The NRA opposes the CDC injury control research because it wants to suppress the awful truth about gun violence.” This lack of funding and support has prevented and discouraged research in the field of gun violence, and gives a harrowing look into the United States fetishized relationship with firearms.


Jessica Glenza, “How Many Guns Are in America? A Web of State Secrecy Means No One Knows,” The Guardian, October 27, 2015,

Jennifer Mascia, “In First Post-Charleston Gun Vote, Congress Preserves CDC Research Ban,” The Trace, June 24, 2015,

Student Researcher: Grace Reed (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Anthony Vigorito (Sonoma State University)