What The NRA Doesn't Want You To Know

As Black Lives Matter protests continue across the nation, a new study is complicating the debate around police violence.

The study, which comes out of Harvard, took data from a number of police departments across the country and looked at how different groups of people are treated by law enforcement.

As expected, this study found that police officers are more likely to use force when dealing with black people than they are when dealing with white people.

For example, police are 18 percent more likely to push black people against a wall, 16 percent more likely to put them in handcuffs, 19 percent more likely to draw their weapons, and so and so on.

These statistics are depressing for sure, but not really all that surprising given the reality of systemic racism in this country.

But what is surprising is what this study found about police officers use of lethal force, i.e. when they kill people.

Contrary to what you’d expect, it found that police are just as likely to kill white people as they are black people.

Predictably, the right-wing media has jumped on this as proof -- PROOF -- that the Black Lives Matter movement is lying.

For example, the Drudge Report linked to a New York Times story about the Harvard study with a headline that read “STUDY: NO RACIAL BIAS in police shootings...”

But is this study really all that definitive?

No, not it’s not.

The problem with the Harvard study is that it relies on data from just a handful of different police departments, most of which are located in big cities like Houston, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

This isn’t a bad idea on its own. After all, the bigger a city is, the more representative it is of the population as a whole.

But in the context of studying police violence, relying on data from just a few big cities isn’t the best idea.

If there’s one thing that we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that some of the worst police violence occurs in smaller cities like Ferguson, Missouri or Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

A truly accurate analysis of police use of force should therefore include data from these smaller cities, not just the big cities that are almost always better trained and better equipped than their local counterparts.

And that raises the question -- why didn’t the author of the Harvard study use better data?

Well, it’s probably not because he was trying to make it seem like there’s no racial bias in police violence.

It’s because there’s not really any good police violence data out there.

Even after the reforms that the FBI announced back in December, reporting of police violence to the federal government is still completely voluntary.

Until reporting by police departments of their officers' use of force is compulsory and countrywide, we’re never going to get an accurate picture of what’s going on.

But even if reporting police violence data were compulsory, there’d still be big obstacles to using that data in any sensible way.

That’s because thanks to Republicans and the NRA, it’s been illegal for over 20 years for the CDC to conduct any research on gun violence.

That’s right, illegal!

This ban began back in the 1990s after the CDC published some good, solid research into gun violence.

One of the first studies they did found a clear relationship between increases in gun ownership and increased homicide rates.

The NRA didn’t like where this was going for obvious reasons, so it started pushing it's bought-and-paid-for-shills in Congress to do something about those pesky scientists at the CDC.

The NRA got their wish in 1996 when Republican Congressman Jay Dickey introduced what’s now known as the Dickey Amendment.

It was a policy rider attached to a spending bill and it stated that “none of the funds available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” Because it’s so broadly worded, the Dickey Amendment has had a huge chilling on gun research at the federal level.

No one wants to go to jail for doing their job, and CDC researchers live in fear that they’ll become the next Lois Lerner, dragged in front of a Congressional kangaroo court and forced to testify for hours on end.

Tragically, we really need the information from good studies about police violence - but the Dickey Amendment has prevented them from being done.

Therefore, we don't know what kind of connections there are between gun ownership and police violence, connections we should have known about years ago but haven’t because of the gun industry’s stranglehold over public policy.

The NRA, of course, couldn’t be happier with this situation.

But this is just insanity.

Even Jay Dickey thinks so. He’s now come out against his own amendment and thinks it should be repealed.

He’s right.

If we really want to stop America’s plague of both gun and police violence, or even just understand what’s causing both, we need good statistics and good research.

The Dickey Amendment prevents us from having either of those things.

It’s high time we repealed it.


Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 6 years 46 weeks ago

What is the matter here?

The "so called" mess is caused by man

Resolving the matter is so damned easy

Ban guns

johnbest's picture
johnbest 6 years 46 weeks ago

Our neighboring small village Los Lunas, New Mexico was given an armored personnel carrier by the defense department. I guess the tires got dirty so they gve a bunch of them away to small towns around the country. I understand these vehicles cost about $500,000 each. I saw the vehicle today parked in their street maintenance yard. It has been painted black and I doubt if it has ever been used. Los Lunas has a population of 15,330 souls and is 20 miles south of Albuquerque. Why is the defense department pissing away our money on equipment that they obviously don't need.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 6 years 46 weeks ago

I heard awhile back the gentrification, which has been occurring in the U.S. for many years, is not good for our country. It's been going on since 1900 when immigrants from Europe came over and were comfortable with their own people who speak the same language. This is understandable. Since WWII the middle class has been moving out of the big cities to the surburbs leaving ghettos behind. I see ghettos as a major problem for the police. Ghetto schools are usually substandard an crime is a problem. What some cities in California are doing is requiring developers of subdivisions to build homes of different size and value in these subdivision.

Kend's picture
Kend 6 years 46 weeks ago

I see a bigger problem. White police officers, if any will sign up, will stop going into black neighborhoods. Or at very least slow going to homes in black neighborhoods for fear of being shot. The results from this could be grave There is a very good chance this could go horribly wrong

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 6 years 46 weeks ago

If the Dickey amendment gets repealed, I sure hope the CDC research includes how many hours gun toting killers spend listening to right wing hate speech outlets such as Fox News.

There are many George Zimmermans wearing police badges. His was a hate crime every bit as much as white cops killing black citizens are hate crimes.....could it be more obvious, for christ sakes? And Zimmerman is still walking around a free man! Cops can get foxmerized just as easy as any other citizen.

Outback 6 years 46 weeks ago

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Well this is my take. I'm an old white guy, 73 years of age. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where “race” was never an issue, at least in our well insulated minds. When I was a kid we played “cowboys and Indians” and cap guns were the standard toy, and later BB guns. The Lone Ranger was a hero and the NRA was a good thing in that it was one of the places where our older siblings could go to get a good grounding on real fire arms and safe practices relating to their legitimate use, which meant hunting safety and, in some abstract sense, the skills that might some day be helpful in military service. This was Camelot. Much has changed in my perception over the intervening six decades. As a nation we have engaged in almost perpetual warfare during that time, from Korea to Viet Nam to Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to all the other intermediate skirmishes. In that time I have learned much about the history of this nation, which is an exceedingly violent one. I have observed the inhumane treatment of minorities both socially and economically, particularly the black population, despite our lofty pronouncements of progress in the post civil rights era. More recently I've seen a shift along class lines, where the “haves” are systematically protected while the “have nots” are progressively marginalized. And powerful interests in this country are relentless in their pursuit of what amounts to a feudal system enforced by a police state. So no, I will not give up my cap gun, because I still believe I'm one of the “good guys”. Nor will I accept the twisted logic employed by some that reduces the Second Amendment to an argument for maintaining a citizen's militia instead of a standing army. The founders were at least as wary of the potential abuses of a corrupt government as they were of threats from beyond our borders. For the record, I don't condone violence in any form. On the other hand, I stand ready to protect what's dear to me and my generation from aggression, no matter the source.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 6 years 46 weeks ago

Sorry Outback! It's twisted logic supported and lobbied by the NRA that has twisted the intent of 2nd Amendment

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Pretty simple really!

I wish you well with you phallic addiction

Guns are not necessary except in the nation of about 2% of the worlds population... shame!

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