CDC can research gun violence

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FILE–In this Jan. 16, 2013, file photo, assault weapons and hand guns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield, Ill. Recent mass shootings spurred Congress to try to improve the background check system used during gun purchases, but experts say the system is so fractured that federal legislation being considered in […]

Researchers hope they’ll soon be able to ramp up research into the causes of gun violence.

Congress made it clear in the omnibus spending bill, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can study gun violence.

Gun control advocates say this is a step in the right direction; however, gun rights groups warn taxpayer dollars still cannot be used to promote gun control policies.

To stop America’s epidemic of gun violence, advocates and researchers say they have to understand it.

“38,0000 people die each and every year,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, of the American Public Health Association, said.

In the 1990s, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment which outlawed spending tax dollars on gun control advocacy.

It didn’t ban gun violence studies, but Dr. Benjamin says it had a chilling effect on gun violence research at the CDC.

“People used that language to intimidate the researchers and there was some self-censorship at the agency.”

Facing pressure after the Parkland school shooting, Congress added a single sentence to the spending bill. It said the CDC can research gun violence.

While some have blamed the gun lobby for blocking CDC studies, NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen says the organization has always been OK with the research. 

“The problem is not that research going on, the problem is you may have biased researchers .”

Mortensen says the NRA supports unbiased research, if it doesn’t become gun control advocacy.

“We’re very concerned if we start to see any taxpayer dollars go toward the promotion of gun control policy.”

Dr. Benjamin argues Congress should have gone further and eliminated the Dickey Amendment.

“Health should not be a political issue.”

While Congress did not give the CDC money to study gun violence, Dr. Benjamin says he and other researchers promise to push for funding in next year’s budget.

Dr. Benjamin went on to say he’s hopeful the CDC will manage to find some money in their budget this year, to put toward gun violence studies.

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