The NIH must fund gun violence research
Gun violence kills an average of 93 people a day in the United States. It is a public health crisis, but because of the National Rifle Association’s extremism, most doctors and researchers cannot treat it as one.
In 1996, the NRA successfully pressured Congress to pass the Dickey Amendment, which effectively banned federal funding for gun violence research, first at the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) and then at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).1
After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, at the urging of President Obama, the NIH announced three gun violence funding opportunities.2 But those opportunities expired in January and have not been renewed. NIH funding opportunities highlight areas of concern for the NIH and raise the prominence of those public health issues. NIH leaders should be doing everything they can to highlight gun violence as a public health crisis. Renewing those funding opportunities is an important place to start. Can you add your name today?
Tell the National Institutes of Health: Renew funding opportunities to research the public health crisis caused by gun violence.
The NRA was furious in the 1990s when CDC-funded research confirmed that having a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide. In 1996, the NRA pushed its lackeys in Congress to take away $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget – the same amount the CDC spent on gun violence research the previous year.3 That was the same year Congress passed the Dickey Amendment that prohibited federal funding from being used to “advocate or promote gun control.”4
While the language of the amendment does not explicitly defund all gun violence research, it has effectively shut it down. Since then, researchers have been so afraid of doing work that could be ineligible for federal funding that there has essentially been a 20-year halt on gun violence research. This gap in research at a time when tragic gun deaths are happening on a daily basis means that public policy is informed more by the NRA’s dangerous and extreme rhetoric than real knowledge about the scale of gun violence, its causes and what works best to prevent it.
Progressive champion Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with her colleagues Sens. Chris Murphy and Catherine Cortez Masto, recently led 24 of her Democratic colleagues in urging the NIH to renew the funding opportunities it opened after Sandy Hook.5 While the tragic massacre earlier this month in Las Vegas has focused attention on the gun violence epidemic, now is the time to help amplify their call.
Sign today to tell the National Institutes of Health: Renew funding opportunities for gun violence research.
Thank you for standing up to the NRA.
1. Michael Hiltzik, "The NRA has blocked gun violence research for 20 years. Let's end its stranglehold on science." Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2016.
2. Miles Korhrman and Kate Masters, "The NIH Is Finding Ways to Tip-Toe Around Congress’s Restrictions on Gun Violence Research," The Trace, April 7, 2016.
4. Marissa Fessenden, "Why So Few Scientists Are Studying the Causes of Gun Violence," Smithsonian, July 13, 2015.
5. Emily Schumaker, "Senate Dems Urge NIH To Renew Gun Violence Research Funding," HuffPost, Oct. 12, 2017.