For two decades, as the result of a coordinated attack by the gun lobby, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been hamstrung from researching gun violence as a public health crisis.
In 1996, congressional allies of the gun lobby added a rider to the CDC budget that prevented the agency from spending any funds to “advocate or promote gun control.”1 At the same time, Congress reduced the funding appropriated to the CDC by $2.6 million—the exact amount that the CDC spent on gun violence research the previous year. In 2011, a similar rider was added to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget.2
The combination of the rider and a lack of dedicated funding has had a substantial chilling effect on research into gun violence.
- Since the rider was enacted, CDC annual funding for this research has fallen 96 percent.3
- From 2004 to 2015—when considered in terms of death rates—of the top 30 causes of death, gun violence was the least researched.4
The lack of a dedicated public investment in this research has left policymakers willfully ignorant about many aspects of gun violence in the United States and the most effective interventions to reduce gun deaths.5
The original author of this restriction—former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR)— publicly changed his mind about the rider that bears his name and urged Congress to resume public health research on gun violence.6 More than 100 medical organizations have called on Congress to restore funding for this research.7