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The Reload reports: (previous discussions here, here, and indirectly here).
This isn't the first time the CDC has papered over a study giving politically undesirable answers -- it's not even the first time doing so for a Kleck paper, though at least that one had the fig leaf that Kleck misread the survey scope.
But the discussion here is unusually damning. It's possible that Devin Hughes, the guy signing many of the initial e-mails here, genuinely believes his argument that only the defensive gun uses that make it into the tiny fraction of media and police reports GVPedia has access to 'counts'. If so it's not really a defense of his logic or math, which rests on the claim that no one has found more 'confirmed' defensive gun uses than the Gun Violence Archive, when nearly everyone, including other anti-gun groups, come away from this topic with higher counts. Instead, there's a lot of evidence that GVA finds it appalling -- and could compel the CDC -- merely on the spectre that someone might reference the different numbers and might not submit to the GVA's policy goals.
To their credit, the CDC's people did not immediately fold on the topic; their initial responses are polite, but point to other reasonable interpretations of data. Against their credit, this interest faded after an unrecorded or unFOIAable Teams meeting, set up by the strongly anti-gun Senator Durbin, including the CDC's Acting Principle Deputy Director, with the Teams Meeting on either September 15th or 16th, and basically no FOIA'able discussion after that. There was no discussion in this discovery looking to talk to any of the many researchers finding higher numbers. Nor was there any point where the CDC attempted to ask Kleck -- who is on record saying the CDC has not, so it can't merely be a FOIA foible.
Worse, while playing games with FOIA redactions has long been a boogeyman of ... basically every political activist group, here we see :
Incompetence, perhaps? But in addition to the pages that are redacted in full under the poorly-defined b5 exceptions (probably the 'internal deliberations' prong) to FOIA, as was the above exclamation of surprise about Bryant's NAA links, it's also noticeable what isn't there are all.
Notably, Hughes claimed to have attached a slide deck from that Teams meeting. Maybe he forgot it, and missed the Outlook/Mozilla warning? But probably not. I doubt there's anything amazing in there, but in turn it's hard to imagine anything present that could not or should not be disclosed. Maybe they had a genuinely compelling argument! But if it's the same already-refused arguments repeated, it would look a lot more like the CDC's higher-ups are driven by the influence of a Senator and the White House than by anything in the data.
It's also worth spelling out one part of the process to find this, which is somewhat unusually public. MorosKostas begun the FOIA process in June, after reading a The Trace article a couple days earlier mentioning the removal had happened sometime in April. (Notably, Hughes from above is a former Trace employee.) He only got the response on December 12th. This... leaves some !!fun!! questions about political accountability; even if this particular example would not matter, five months is a significant portion of even today's extended political seasons.
((Not that it would or could matter for Durbin; for his state, this is a nothingburger, or even a bonus.))
More broadly, though, this points to a greater issue with the death of expertise. There are increasing campaigns to open up the CDC for gun violence research, often countered by gun owners pointing out a tendency for the organization to be captured by political forces, and it's hard to see this as anything but a poster child for that problem. Worse, you can point to the existing version of the page, which now reads:
Emphasis added. If they ask the question enough, perhaps they'll get the answers the political activists want -- and if not, they can ask for money to try again.
What a mess.
Is anyone mainstream providing plausible defenses for this behavior? Either the initial censorship or the FoIA ass-covering. I am failing to empathize, here, and expect that the issue will be buried rather than defended.
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