Jay Dickey, Arkansas Lawmaker Who Blocked Gun Research, Dies at 77

Jay Dickey, Arkansas Lawmaker Who Blocked Gun Research, Dies at 77

- in House of Representatives

By then a consultant and lawyer, Mr. Dickey wrote an op-ed article in The Washington Post with Mark Rosenberg, who, until the Dickey amendment was passed, had been responsible for research on gun violence as the director of the disease control centers’ National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (He later became chief executive of the nonprofit humanitarian agency Task Force for Global Health.)

Mr. Dickey and Mr. Rosenberg wrote that while about the same number of Americans died from guns as from automobile accidents, the government spent $240 million a year on traffic safety research but virtually nothing on firearm safety.

The automobile studies, they pointed out, had been effective, credited with saving more than 350,000 lives since 1975 and producing practical results like child restraints, seatbelts, frontal airbags, highway dividers, a minimum drinking age and motorcycle helmets. Yet firearms safety research had been neglected, they said, even though research suggested that “childproof locks, safe-storage devices and waiting periods save lives.”

“As a consequence,” they concluded, “U.S. scientists cannot answer the most basic question: What works to prevent firearm injuries? We don’t know whether having more citizens carry guns would decrease or increase firearm deaths; or whether firearm registration and licensing would make inner-city residents safer or expose them to greater harm.

“We don’t know whether a ban on assault weapons or large-capacity magazines, or limiting access to ammunition, would have saved lives in Aurora, or would make it riskier for people to go to a movie. And we don’t know how to effectively restrict access to firearms by those with serious mental illness.”


Mr. Dickey, left, in 2002, debating Representative Mike Ross, a Democrat who had replaced him two years earlier.

Spencer Tirey/Associated Press

After a gunman fatally shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, President Barack Obama called on the Centers for Disease Control to investigate gun violence, but a Republican-controlled Congress, under pressure from the firearms industry, would not fund the research.

“Research could have been continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners,” Mr. Dickey reiterated in 2015, “in the same fashion that the highway industry continued its research without eliminating the automobile.”

“All this time that we have had, we would’ve found a solution, in my opinion,” Mr. Dickey told National Public Radio in 2015. “And I think it’s a shame that we haven’t.”

His son Ted said he died from complications of Parkinson’s disease in Pine Bluff, Ark., the city where he had been born.

Jay Woodson Dickey Jr. was born on Dec. 14, 1939, to Jay and Margaret Dickey. His father was a lawyer.

He attended Hendrix College in Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree. He earned a law degree there, too.

His marriage to the former Betty Poole, who became the first woman to be named chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, ended in divorce.

Besides his son Ted, he is survived by another son, John; three daughters, Laura Dickey Campbell, Rachel Dickey Haithcoat and Cindy Pefferkorn McCormick; his sister, Barbara Dickey McCain; and 11 grandchildren.

Mr. Dickey was a lawyer and a businessman — a franchisee of the Taco Bell and Baskin-Robbins fast-food chains — when he was elected to the first of four terms in the House of Representatives in 1992. He was the first Republican to represent the Fourth District in rural southwestern Arkansas since Reconstruction.

In Congress, he was also a sponsor of an amendment barring the Health and Human Services Department from funding experiments that involved the destruction of a human embryo or the creation of a human embryo.

His vote to impeach President Bill Clinton apparently did not sit well with constituents in his congressional district, where Mr. Clinton had been born and raised. Less than two years later, in 2000, Mr. Dickey was defeated in a bid for a fifth term.

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