Shots Fired: Lack of Funding for Gun Violence Research

By: Nicole Nazari

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. “For nearly 200 years of our nation’s history, the Second Amendment was understood to provide a right to bear arms if it was for a legitimate purpose such as, serving in a militia. However, this nuanced approach shifted in the 1960s and 1970s under pressure by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Black Panthers who advocated that every American had the right to own a firearm. So, here we are today. Over the past several years, thousands of American lives have been lost to preventable gun-related violence–in schools, places of worship, theaters, and communities. [1] According to the Justice Department, Dayton’s bloodshed was the thirty-second mass killing by firearms this year. [1] With hundreds of lives lost to guns every day, we need to start treating mass shootings as a public health issue. Yet, the very thing which could reduce gun violence is lacking: research.

 Every year in the U.S., more than 30,000 people die from gun-related incidents. [2] 37% of gun deaths were murders. That puts gun deaths ahead of deaths caused by HIV, peptic ulcers, viral hepatitis and other diseases. [3] The funding for research on gun violence is much smaller than the research for other leading causes of death, however. [4] For example, gun violence killed about as many individuals as sepsis, but funding for gun violence research was about 0.7% of that for sepsis. [5] Simply put, gun violence is the least-researched cause of death and the second-least funded cause of death after falls.

The minimal funding can be attributed to a 1996 congressional appropriation bill, the Dickey Amendment. [6] The spending bill banned funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be used to “advocate or promote gun control.”  Although the legislation does not outright prevent the CDC from conducting gun violence research, it has had a chilling effect on gun violence prevention research. One year after Congress passed the Dickey amendment, Congress diverted the allocated $2.6 million dollars toward traumatic brain injury research. To make up for the lack of federal support, some organizations are launching their own gun injury and death research.

 But that money is not enough. To make our communities safer, we must conduct research to understand the causes of gun violence so that we can better develop policies to reduce it. In 2018, the Trump administration’s CDC Director, Robert Redfield, stated that his team is “poised to do the research in this area if Congress chooses to appropriate the funding.” [7] Time is of the essence for Congress to finally take action to save American lives by funding research.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/03/us/mass-shootings.html

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_06-508.pdf

[3]https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/03/508037642/study-says-gun-violence-should-be-treated-as-a-public-health-crisis

[4] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2595514

[5] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170103151717.htm

[6]http://thenationshealth.aphapublications.org/content/48/4/1.2

[7] https://giffords.org/issue/gun-violence-research/

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