ATLANTA (Reuters) – A report published by the Centers for Disease Control on Thursday found no conclusive evidence that gun control laws help to prevent violent crime, suicides and accidental injuries in the United States.

Critics of U.S. firearms laws, which are considered lax in comparison with most other Western nations, have long contended that easy access to guns helped to fuel comparatively high U.S. rates of murder and other violent crimes.

Gun control is a perennial hot political issue in the United States, which reported 28,663 gun-related deaths in 2000, the latest year for which complete data are available. Firearms were the second leading cause of injury-related death that year.

But a national task force of health-care and community experts found “insufficient evidence” that bans on specific guns, waiting periods for gun buyers and other such laws changed the incidence of murder, rape, suicide and other types of violence.

The findings were based on 51 studies, some partly funded by the CDC, of gun laws enacted in the mid-1970s and later.

That’s particularly striking given the CDC’s generally anti-gun attitude over the past several decades.