Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is prohibited by federal law from studying firearm violence even though the American Medical Association calls gun violence in America an epidemic and has dubbed it as “a public health crisis”?
It’s true. In 1996, the Republican-majority Congress threatened to strip all funding from the CDC, which the National Rifle Association accused of promoting gun control, unless it stopped funding research into firearm injuries and death.
And in 1997, with strong backing from the NRA, the “Dickey Amendment,” named for Republican Congressman Jay Dickey of Arkansas, was passed by Congress. The Dickey Amendment to the federal congressional appropriations bill stipulated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the CDC may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” As a result, the CDC stopped funding gun control research.
Although gun violence is one of the leading causes of death in America, it is also one of the most poorly researched. In relation to US mortality rates, gun violence research is the least-researched cause of death and the second-least-funded cause of death, after falls.
Critics of the restrictions argue that the government should not try to limit the collection of scientific information, which is by nature apolitical. Facts are facts, and public health researchers do not have a vested interest in politicizing the outcome of such studies.
Non-partisan research could uncover any number of constructive actions that might help stem the tide of gun violence that don’t necessarily include limiting access to guns. But with these gun violence research restrictions, policymakers have very little up-to-date data about what causes gun violence or how it can be prevented or reduced.
So just why are the NRA and congressional Republicans so determined to prevent research into gun violence? My guess: follow the money.
Maybe now might be a good time to contact your senators and representatives and encourage them to consider allowing funding for gun violence research.
After all, before he died last year, none other than the man behind the Dickey Amendment, Jay Dickey, expressed a desire to turn gun violence research “over to science and take it away from politics.”