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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Gun Violence Threatens the Health of Our Nation

March for our Lives logoFed up with excuses for why policy makers cannot do anything to stop gun violence, Families USA--along with more than 170 national and state partners--are demanding action. Today, we sent a letter to leaders in Congress urging full repeal of the ban on federally funded research into gun violence. View our sign-on letter.

Last month, 17 people, including 14 students, were killed in a mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. While the increased incidents of mass shootings are shocking, they are only the most visible instances of gun violence. Tragically, more than 35,000 people, including nearly 3,000 children, die from gun violence each year in the United States.

Gun violence disproportionately affects children of color

Gun violence knows no barriers. The shooting in Parkland was just the latest in a surge of mass shootings in places as diverse as a country music concert in Las Vegas, a LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, and an African-American church in Charleston, SC. All people can be affected by this violence, but is particularly felt in low-income and racial and ethnic minority communities. African American, Hispanic, and American Indian boys are all significantly more likely to be killed by gun violence than white children.

Families USA recognizes gun violence as a severe threat to the health of our nation. As an organization focused on health care, we have not engaged previously in the vigorous national debate on gun violence. We are entering that debate today because our nation is at a turning point.

It is past time to repeal the Dickey Amendment

While the numbers of people hurt are staggering, we know too little about the causes and effects of gun violence in our community. This is in part due to the "Dickey Amendment" -- an effective ban on federally funded research into gun violence. It is past time for that ban to end.

As health care policy experts, we know that effective policy relies on evidence-based research. Despite gun violence being a leading cause of death for children, in 1996 Congress forbade any funding for the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that “may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The Dickey Amendment, named after its congressional sponsor, has effectively stifled meaningful federal funding for research on the causes and effects gun violence. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that “in relation to mortality rates, gun violence research was the least-researched cause of death.”

Across the country, students are rallying to urge policy makers to take action against gun violence. They are asking adults to enact policies to stem the rising tide of gun violence against children. There are many policies that Congress should enact to protect young people and all Americans against violence, but the health care community is united in calling for the end of one policy that is clearly indefensible.

We are urging Congress to act swiftly to repeal the Dickey Amendment and fund research into the causes, effects, and evidence-based prevention of gun violence in our communities.