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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Congress and the Trump Administration Should Put Their Money Where Their Mouths Are on Gun Violence Research

Shawn Gremminger

Senior Director of Federal Relations

Back in March, in the wake of just one in a long line of tragic and senseless mass shootings, Families USA organized a letter to Congress signed by more than 170 national and state organizations calling for an end to the “Dickey Amendment.” The Dickey Amendment, enacted by Congress in 1996, forbids any funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that “may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

It has effectively stifled CDC research on the causes and effects of gun violence for a generation. The final omnibus appropriations bill, which became law on March 23, included report language to clarify that the intent of the Dickey Amendment is not to stop all federally funded research on gun violence. This was a very small step in the right direction, but more action from Congress is necessary to move gun violence research funding forward.

Congress must appropriate new CDC funding for gun violence research

Despite the clarification on “Dickey,” the omnibus did not provide any new funding for CDC to embark on gun violence research, and CDC officials say they need this appropriation to properly dig into this issue. And despite a lot of dialogue among federal leaders about gun violence, this violence has only continued since March. To embark on gun violence research, CDC officials say they need an appropriation from Congress to properly dig into this issue. The CDC’s annual appropriation is, indeed, highly granular. Administrators have relatively little flexibility in determining research priorities outside of budget guidelines.

Last month, Families USA joined more than 80 other organizations in sending a letter to congressional appropriators led by the American Academy of Pediatrics calling for $50 million in funding for research on gun violence for the CDC. 

Current appropriations process gives Congress an opportunity to invest in gun violence research

Congress and the Trump administration now have an opportunity to quite literally put their money where their mouths are by actually funding research on the causes, effects, and prevention of gun violence in the FY 2019 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill.

Just this week, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are finalizing their overall funding allocations for each subcommittee. Now the hard work of writing individual appropriations bills begins in earnest.

Our message is clear: Words are cheap. Until the president signs a final bill with significant funding dedicated to gun violence research, Congress will get no credit for saying the right thing at the right time. And we will be advocating for gun violence research until Congress makes good on its word.