Following the 1996 Dickey Amendment, forbidding “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using money to “advocate or promote gun control,” America has been at a loss for how to gather adequate data on guns.
With the National Rifle Association backing the amendment, it seemed, like most things in the United States, politically motivated. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) budget was slashed by Congress that same year. But, in the wake of the unremitting gun violence across the nation, “[medical] and public-health professionals have been pushing back.” This ultimately brings up the question:
What if the CDC could research gun violence?
Garen Wintemute, a physician and director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program, argues that we simply don’t know enough about the risk factors of gun violence. He states that “one of the big predictors of future gun violence is history of other forms of violence.” Similarly, he notes the lack of data from social scientists regarding the “psychological impact that gun violence can have on communities.”
Additionally, Shannon Frattaroli, associate professor for Johns Hopkins University, finds that following the spread of weapons is a key factor to “studying the effectiveness of firearm policies.” In large cities such as Houston and Chicago, weapons are often bought and sold through illegal means, making it vital to understand where these guns are coming from.
Both of these processes, as Eric Niiler from WIRED states, “will require a lot more money, time, and resources than researchers currently possess.” That’s where the CDC, “a deep-pocketed grant-making agency” comes into play. And the best part? It’s finally a (somewhat) bipartisan agreement. Alex Azar, President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources has “opened the door to expanding federal gun violence research,” calling it a “priority” for the Health and Human Resources committee. Organizations such as The American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association are backing the idea as well. In 2016 alone, over 100 medical organizations plead Congress to lift the Dickey Amendment.
The Union of Concerned Scientists calls it a “plea to Congress,” maintaining the stance that “science-based policies” are the way to go.
It seems as though gun reform has remained nothing but stagnant within the past few years. Now, Congress is faced with a decision that could lead the United States to better understand where and why gun violence is happening. Although a pressing one, it’s a decision that is long overdue.