Here’s why the federal government can’t study gun violence
On the heels of the deadliest gun massacre in modern U.S. history, Republicans and Democrats alike have decried the killings and offered supportive words to the hundreds of victims in Las Vegas.
With every major mass shooting, from Sandy Hook in sleepy Newtown, Connecticut, to Pulse nightclub in Orlando, come pleas from the public for officials to do something, anything, to address the scourge of gun violence in this country.
On this case, politicians from both sides of the aisle, with the support of the NRA, have indicated they may be open to a conversation about common sense gun restrictions, including restricting “bump stocks,” devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like automatic weapons.
But perhaps part of the reason Congress hasn’t fully addressed the rising tide of shootings is that the federal government lacks basic research into which solutions work best.
Passed in 1997 with the strong backing of the NRA, the so-called “Dickey Amendment” effectively bars the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from studying firearm violence — an epidemic the American Medical Association has since dubbed “a public health crisis.”
The amendment, which was first tucked into an appropriations bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton, stipulates that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” A similar provision was included in the Appropriations Act of 2012.
Named for Republican Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas, a self-proclaimed “point man for the NRA” on The Hill — the Dickey amendment does not explicitly ban CDC research on gun violence. But along with the gun control line came a $2.6 million budget cut — the exact amount that the agency had spent on firearm research the year prior — and a quiet wariness.
As one doctor put it, “Precisely what was or was not permitted under the clause was unclear … but no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency’s funding to find out.”
Critics argue that the government should not try to limit the collection of scientific information, which is by nature apolitical.
“Facts are facts,” Amalia Corby, APA’s senior legislative and federal affairs officer, told ABC News. “Public health researchers do not have a vested interest in the outcome.”
Besides, experts say, non-partisan research could uncover a plethora of suggestions to help stem the tide of violence — education strategies, guns storage solutions, etc….