You know when you take a piece of meat out of the fridge that’s been in there a couple of days, and it has a kind of funky smell, but you decide it’s probably good and you go ahead and cook it anyway?
That’s the feeling we get from two bills that passed the state Assembly this week, one setting up a fund to study gun violence (A2111/S5952) and another (A7302/S2981) establishing a research institute at SUNY into gun violence.
Like that funky pork chop, this seems like it should be OK, but is it really?
The problem isn’t the concept of studying gun violence, but the bills themselves.
The bill setting up the fund says the money will come from, at least in part, voluntary donations made by taxpayers through their income tax forms, a notoriously unreliable source of funding. The money then will be distributed to the state Department of Health and the state university system.
At the new research institute, the money will be used to award grants for research — not through competitive bidding or request for proposals, but at the discretion of the state health commissioner and the SUNY chancellor.
No formal budget and a non-competitive bidding process for state grants?
That smells like an opportunity for wasteful spending and political favoritism.
For a government office without a dedicated funding source or budget, the new institute at SUNY has a very expansive mission — covering everything from educating the public and government agencies about gun violence, compiling reports on various forms of gun violence, working with policy makers on gun legislation, establishing “networks of collaborating experts” in various areas of firearm research, recruitment and training of researchers, and looking into the causes, risks and prevention of gun violence.
That sounds like the beginning of a typical New York state bureaucracy.
Before they move forward, how about gathering up the research available now?
Surely the gun control laws the state has been passing over the years are based on some form of research and statistics.
Let’s make sure they don’t duplicate the research that’s already out there.
How about tapping existing sources of information, such as pro- and anti-gun groups, gun victim advocates, social workers, law enforcement and legal experts to see what they can contribute before diving into a new venture?
Also, if gun violence research is so important, why not fund it directly through the state budget? Can this work be done through an existing state agency instead of creating a new government entity?
And why not see if there’s more that can be done in Congress so information could be collected and shared among the states?
Research into gun violence is important. But let’s figure out first if there is a more efficient, more effective and more financially responsible way to do it, and one that doesn’t invite the potential for favoritism and waste, than these bills offer.