Researching the effects of gun violence is essential but, because of a provision known as the Dickey Amendment, the U.S. government hasn’t conducted any significant research on the impact of gun violence for more than 20 years. This year, a bill before the U.S. House of Representatives could change that.
If the House passes a spending bill in the coming weeks, we could see this decades-long lack of essential public health research come to an end.
The Dickey Amendment
The Dickey Amendment was first introduced in 1996 as part of a larger government spending package. The amendment prohibited the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from utilizing funds dedicated toward injury prevention to advocate for gun control. For more than 20 years, this language has discouraged Congress from authorizing funds for the CDC to research gun violence. As a result, CDC Funding fell by 94 percent between 1996 and 2018.
Then in March 2018, Congress advanced language to clarify that while the Dickey Amendment remains in place, the CDC can resume gun violence research as long as it does not advocate for gun control.
Opportunities for Change
The House is now advancing a spending bill that funds CDC gun violence research. The FY 2020 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health, and Human Services includes $50 million for scientific research on firearm injury and mortality prevention research, split evenly between the CDC and the National Institute of Health (NIH).
This funding is critical to understanding the scope of this problem and uncovering meaningful data that will inform public policy. These funding levels will fund 10-20 research studies per year and support infrastructure like the National Violent Death Reporting System, which provides comprehensive counts of fatal injuries and detailed information about the deaths.
The research made possible by this funding will allow us to: - Evaluate when and how gun incidents occur - Examine the effectiveness of a wide range of policies and support other research topics - Close gaps in data, ranging from numbers on nonfatal firearm injuries, to unintentional shootings, to gun ownership - Improve data sharing and facilitating multistate consortiums - Support the expansion of data infrastructure at both federal and state level
Gun violence is a public health crisis, with an estimated 100 Americans shot and killed each day. The research itself isn’t political – it’s about getting the information we need to prevent tragedies and keep our communities safe. Thanks to research funding, we have identified life-saving solutions to other pubic health crises. The best example of this is car accidents and the research that led to seat belts and safer highways.
As we seek a future free of preventable gun-related deaths, we urge Congress to fund crucial research that will help make our communities safer.