With the H1N1 “swine” flu season moving into full swing, and with AIDS/HIV and other deadly diseases continuing to plague millions of Americans, one might think that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), would have its hands full. After all, the CDC “serves as the national focus for developing and applying disease prevention and control, . . . to improve the health of the people of the United States.” You might be inclined to think that with all that’s happening here and around the world posing very real and very serious health risks to the American citizenry, the CDC would have sense enough not to squander its resources on matters wholly unrelated to health and infectious diseases. If you made such a presumption, you’d be flat wrong.
The CDC, like many if not all federal bureaucracies, seems always to be searching for new projects and agendas in which to involve itself. One “problem” on which the CDC has now focussed its attention, is gun control. That’s right. The Centers for Disease Control is interjecting itself into the debate over control of firearms in the United States.
The CDC has tried this before. During the administration of former President Bill Clinton, the agency twisted the English language and impermissibly expanded its already broad jurisdiction over health and disease-related matters, in order to justify spending taxpayer money on the political agenda of gun control. The Congress thankfully slapped CDC’s hands and stopped it from this abuse of taxpayer money and agency jurisdiction. Well, those loveable bureaucrats at CDC are at it again. Except this time, CDC is being even more clever — disingenuous is a more accurate term — in putting the square gun-control peg into the round disease-control hole.
The CDC says it is not funding research on ”guns” or “gun control.” Instead, a CDC spokesman says – whether with a straight face or not I don’t know, since the communication was delivered by e-mail in response to a Republican congressional inquiry – the agency is studying “the web of circumstances” (whatever that is) that surrounds gun violence. Thus, according to this nonsensical gobbledygook, it is proper in the CDC’s eyes for it to study how alcohol sales impact gun violence or the effects of injuries sustained by teenagers as a result of gun possession. In other words, because some people who drink alcohol also might cause an injury or death to themselves or others by misusing firearms, and since alcoholism is a “disease,” it is appropriate for the CDC to study gun control. This subterfuge makes a mockery of the process whereby federal monies are appropriated in a way that reflects at least a colorable relationship with the agencies’ defined missions.
Some Republicans in the Congress are raising questions about this improper expenditure of federal funds by the CDC; but as members of the minority party, there’s little they can do alone to stop it. Moreover, considering President Obama’s personal interest in and commitment to gun control (he used to be on the board of the Joyce Foundation, one of the country’s largest funders of non-government research on gun control), it is highly unlikely to say the least that he or the House or Senate leadership will step in and force CDC to operate within its jurisdictional and funding parameters.
However, if those citizens and advocacy groups who actually care about the rule of law raise a sufficiently loud hue and cry, perhaps enough Members of Congress in both parties will force their leaders to rein in at least this rogue agency.