End the ban on federal gun violence research
Gun violence kills 80 Americans every day, yet politicians beholden to the NRA refuse to fund research that would help us fight this epidemic of preventable deaths.
This is a clear example of the NRA’s inappropriate and dangerous level of influence in Washington. It’s unacceptable that the gun lobby can keep scientists from determining how best to keep toddlers safe from guns, or how best to prevent gun-related suicides.1
Recently, 141 medical associations and four former surgeons general submitted letters to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees urging Congress to rescind the ban and restore funding for gun violence prevention research.2 It’s time for Congress to break with the NRA and allow researchers to do their job. The more of us who add our voices, the stronger their message will be.
Tell Congress: End the ban on gun violence research.
Since 1996, Congress has banned the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from doing the type of research that would help doctors and public health advocates understand the causes and impacts of gun violence, and develop and implement strategies to reduce it. The Dickey Amendment (named after the author, Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas), has been included in every CDC funding bill since 1996. It mandates that no CDC funding can be used to “advocate or promote gun control”.3 While the intention of the legislation was to prevent the CDC from lobbying for gun control, not from conducting gun-violence research, researchers are so afraid of engaging in research that could be ineligible for federal funding that there has been a decades-long halt on gun-violence research at the federal level.4
The consequences have been staggering: More Americans have died from guns since Robert Kennedy was assassinated than on battlefields of all the wars in American history. It is outrageous that the NRA’s agenda is being allowed to shut down legitimate research at the CDC.
Lifting this outrageous research ban could be the first step in finding ways to end gun violence, including mass shootings. It’s time for Congress to end the ban on gun violence research.
Without research-based evidence related to the epidemic of gun violence in the United States, it is virtually impossible to pass and implement effective federal policy. Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis, who had his CDC funding cut after the Dickey amendment called out the NRA for being responsible for “choking of the development of evidence [upon which gun-violence prevention policy could be based].” 5
In addition, according to Mark Rosenberg, the former director of the National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, the Dickey amendment has stopped researchers from answering basic questions that could keep people safe. Questions like: Are communities where more people carry guns safer or less safe? Does the availability of high-capacity magazines increase deaths? Do more rigorous background checks make a difference?6
Being able to answer these questions could hold the key to crafting policies that could prevent thousands of deaths every year. It doesn’t make sense to allow the NRA to continue to bind the CDC’s hands.
The medical community has spoken up and we’re standing with them: It’s time for Congress to act for the good of the people, not the good of the NRA. Tell them to end the ban on gun violence research.
Thank you for standing up to the NRA.
1. Kate Masters, “141 Medical Groups Urge Congress to Restore Funding for Gun Violence Research,” The Trace, May 16, 2016.
2. ibid 3. Erin Schumaker, “Why The Ban On Gun Violence Research Is A Public Health Issue,” Huffington Post, Dec. 7, 2015.
4. Marissa Fessenden, “Why So Few Scientists Are Studying the Causes of Gun Violence,” Smithsonian.com, Jul. 13, 2015.
5. Michael Luo, “N.R.A. Stymies Firearms Research, Scientists Say,” The New York Times, Jan. 25, 2011.