In December, Congress voted to approve $25 million for gun violence research. Experts hope the new funding will shed light on questions about gun ownership and the effectiveness of firearm policies and violence prevention efforts.
The new funding ends what had effectively been a two-decade government freeze on such research, according to a February 9, 2020 USA Today article. In 1996, NRA pressure led Congress to approve an amendment sponsored by then-Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas—called the Dickey Amendment—which stated that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not use federal funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” The amendment had a chilling effect on gun-related research.
“For 25 years, I’ve never told doctoral students that they should become a gun researcher because they couldn’t make a living,” said David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. He told USA Today that there are only about 10-20 full-time gun researchers in the U.S.
Comparing the complexity of the gun violence issue to that of motor vehicle injuries, the article noted that federal funding was key in helping reduce the nation’s motor vehicle fatality rate from 5.5% per 100 million vehicle miles in 1966 to 1.2% in 2017.
“Data matters, research mattered in the motor vehicle arena,” Hemenway said. “Drivers are no better than they were when I was a kid, but there are fewer fatalities than there were. There are good ways to reduce the problem without banning the use of these products.”
Read the USA Today article: Congress approved $25M in funding for gun safety research. Now what?