Imagine 17 students—all from the same school—suddenly dropping dead from a mysterious infectious disease. It’s a good bet that Congress would somehow produce research funds to prevent that horror from ever re-occurring. Not so with gun violence. For the past 22 years, CDC research on gun violence has been halted. This research is not expressly forbidden, but the withdrawal of funding and political pressure has had a chilling effect.
In 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine published research which showed “keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide … by a family member or intimate acquaintance.” The NRA felt threatened and in 1996 convinced Congress to remove the CDC’s funding for gun violence research ($2.6 million at the time) and passed the Dickey Amendment which forbade the CDC “to advocate or promote gun control.”
Even after President Barack Obama (D) issued an executive order following the Sandy Hook massacre, calling for the CDC to “sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it,” the agency still hasn’t returned to studying gun violence.
“It is possible for us to conduct firearm-related research within the context of our efforts to address youth violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, and suicide,” CDC spokeswoman Courtney Lenard wrote in the Washington Post in 2015. “But our resources are very limited.”
Gun deaths are a public health problem. Guns kill over 30,000 Americans a year. Disability from gunshot wounds are a public health problem. After treating countless patients with spinal cord injuries and brain injuries caused by gunshot wounds, I can tell you their lives and those of their families are altered forever. GSW (gunshot wound) is so widespread that it a well known acronym in the medical field! Research into motor vehicle deaths has resulted in seat belts, air bags, and safer highways. Research into cancer has resulted in more effective prevention and treatment.
Gun deaths and injuries apparently don’t warrant this same concern. Behold an impotent Congress, slaves to the NRA, who keeps them silent with their massive campaign contributions. Citizens, express your outrage!
Submitted by: Dana Collins Bussing MD, and co-chair of the Healthcare Committee