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Jay Dickey, Arkansas Congressman Who Blocked Gun Research, Dies At 77


Jay Dickey, who served four terms as a congressman from Arkansas, died last week. Most obituaries mention two things. He was an ardent supporter of guns who later became a big proponent of the need for medical research into gun safety.


In 1996, Congressman Dickey famously questioned the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mark Rosenberg, about federal funding for gun research. Rosenberg recalled their exchange.

MARK ROSENBERG: He asked me, are you really against guns? Do you want to get rid of all guns? And I said, no, we want to stop the violence.

CORNISH: Congressman Dickey wasn't buying it. The self-declared point man for the NRA sponsored legislation that became known as the Dickey Amendment. It stripped the CDC of money for research into the health effects of guns.

SHAPIRO: Rosenberg's testimony was the beginning of a long relationship that outlasted both men's time in government.

ROSENBERG: When I first met him, I thought he must have been duped by the NRA. Eventually, we came to understand each other. And we came to trust each other, and we came to share our views.

And he taught me that there are people for whom guns are an important part of their culture, their life and their homes and that if he wanted to do research on gun violence, we need to assure these people that the goal of the research was not to take away everyone's guns.

CORNISH: The congressman's view on guns evolved as well. Rosenberg recalled they would talk about the mass shootings at schools and in movie theaters and malls.

ROSENBERG: And Jay said, this has got to stop. We can't do nothing. And he said if science could help us prevent motor vehicle deaths and we didn't have to get rid of cars, then maybe science can help us in this area as well.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Dickey told NPR about his regret in an interview in 2015. He said he did not intend to halt all medical research into gun safety, and he thought research could be done without harming gun owners' rights.


JAY DICKEY: All this time that we have had, we would have found a solution, in my opinion. And I think it's a shame that we haven't.

CORNISH: Jay Dickey. He died on April 20. He was 77 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MOUNTAIN GOATS SONG, "WILD SAGE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.