Enable the CDC to Research Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue

A pillar stands outside the former main entrance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at Roybal Campus in Atlanta, 2001.

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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

Endnotes

  1.  Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 1997, Public Law 104-208, 104th Cong., 2d sess. (September 30, 1996).
  2. Christine Jamieson, “Gun violence research: History of the federal funding freeze,” The American Psychological Association, February 2013, available at http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2013/02/gun-violence.aspx.
  3. Everytown for Gun Safety, “The Congressional Ban on Gun Violence Prevention Research,” available at https://everytownresearch.org/the-congressional-ban-on-gun-violence-prevention-research/ (last accessed March 2018).
  4. David E. Stark and Nigam H. Shah, “Funding and Publication of Research on Gun Violence and Other Leading Causes of Death” (JAMA Network, 2017), available at https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2595514.
  5. Center for American Progress, “Removing Barriers and Reinvesting in Public Health Research on Gun Violence” (2016), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/guns-crime/reports/2016/03/09/132894/removing-barriers-and-reinvesting-in-public-health-research-on-gun-violence/.
  6. Steve Inskeep, “Ex-Rep. Dickey Regrets Restrictive Law On Gun Violence Research,” NPR, October 9, 2015, available at https://www.npr.org/2015/10/09/447098666/ex-rep-dickey-regrets-restrictive-law-on-gun-violence-research.
  7. Ciara McCarthy, “Over 100 medical groups urge Congress to fund CDC research on gun violence,” The Guardian, April 6, 2016, available at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/06/cdc-congress-research-gun-violence-public-health.