What happened: Soon after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a directive that warned staff, including scientists, to obtain approval before posting anything on social media related to mental health, violence, or mass shootings. The HHS directive appears to have been instituted to stop criticism of President Trump’s comments, who was falsely claiming that mental illness was the cause of both gun shootings.
Why it matters: This action muzzled scientists from providing needed scientific information to the public, especially at a moment when Americans were actively looking for this information. It is a chilling thought that federal scientists, especially those with public health expertise in the gun violence, were unable to talk about the scientific research showing that mental illness is rarely a predictor of gun violence. When we muzzle our scientists, we also muzzle the public from obtaining needed information that can affect everyone’s health and safety.
Learn more about how the directive prevented HHS scientists from speaking about the gun violence research in the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shooting.