CDC Still Can’t Research Gun Violence Because Of GOP Congress
Hamstrung by a Congress indebted to the NRA, the Centers for Disease Control is unable to research gun violence, in spite of an order from the White House to do so.
[su_thin_right_skyscraper_ad]The CDC had not touched firearm research since 1996 — when the NRA accused the agency of promoting gun control and Congress threatened to strip the agency’s funding. The CDC’s self-imposed ban dried up a powerful funding source and had a chilling effect felt far beyond the agency: Almost no one wanted to pay for gun violence studies, researchers say. Young academics were warned that joining the field was a good way to kill their careers. And the odd gun study that got published went through linguistic gymnastics to hide any connection to firearms.
The long stalemate continued until shortly after the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., when Obama announced several gun-control proposals, including reversing the CDC research ban. His higher-profile proposals – tightening firearm background checks, reinstating the assault weapons ban – were viewed as impossible to pass into law. Congress wouldn’t bite. But ending the CDC research ban? Done by executive order, it appeared to have the best shot, along with broad support from a scientific community upset that gun violence as a public health problem was being ignored.
“A lot of people thought it would make a big difference,” recalled Jeffrey Swanson, a Duke University psychiatry professor who studies gun violence and mental health.
But today the CDC still avoids gun-violence research, demonstrating what many see as the depth of its fear about returning to one of the country’s most divisive debates. The agency recently was asked by The Washington Post why it was still sitting on the sidelines of firearms studies. It declined to make an official available for an interview but responded with a statement noting it had commissioned an agenda of possible research goals but still lacked the dedicated funding to pursue it.
And don’t hold your breath.
Congress has continued to block dedicated funding. Obama requested $10 million for the CDC’s gun violence research in his last two budgets. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have introduced bills supporting the funding. Both times the Republican-controlled House of Representatives said no. Maloney recently said she planned to reintroduce her bill this year, but she wasn’t hopeful.
So, the CDC is no closer to initiating gun-violence studies.
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