The Dickey Amendment

:: Guns

By: John Clements

My name is John Clements. I’m a computer scientist and programmer, and quite frankly, it’s hard for me to remain civil in discussion of the Dickey amendment, one of the most pernicious pieces of legislative ledgermain it is my deep displeasure to be familiar with.

Since the Dickey amendment of 1996, the Centers for Disease Control—responsible for safeguarding the health of the American public—has been unable to perform research on the effects or causes of gun violence.

My government—the finest on earth—makes many decisions that I disagree with. Money is spent daily in ways that I am not in support of. However, when we institute a blanket ban on funding for research into particular topics, it sends a much stronger message; not only do we not want to spend money on this or that; we’re actually afraid to discover the truth. Senator Dickey himself—the author of the amendment—has since come out against the it1.

This tactic is one of a number of what I think of as “force multiplier” or “upstream” approaches to controlling society, and I think they’re all appalling. These tactics seek to change the rules of the game, to prevent our political system from working correctly. Gerrymandering is one such tactic. Allowing unlimited corporate donations—that is, the lack of campaign finance laws—are another. Rules such as this are similar; rather than trying to persuade the public that your point is correct, you simply prevent the truth from being discovered in the first place.

In my mind, this kind of ban seeks to prevent the free flow of information, tacks perilously close to freedom of the press, and can only come from a group that is frightened that the public might discover the truth.

It’s time for us to discover the truth.