March 24, 2018
It is the morning of the first March for Our Lives, and the newly passed federal omnibus spending bill contains both good and bad news for gun violence researchers. The good: for the first time in over twenty years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will have budget funds dedicated to studying gun violence. The bad: the Dickey Amendment remains in place. Why is this important?
The Dickey Amendment, passed in 1996, mandated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” In practice, this became a ban on CDC funding of gun violence research. You can see why. For example, if a researcher evaluated the impact of an assault weapons ban on the number of firearm deaths determined that the legislation was effective, would they be able to publish their results without violating the Dickey amendment?
Consequently, gun violence research slowed to a crawl after the Dickey amendment was passed. Gun violence research now receives less than 2% of the federal funding invested into causes of death that claim the lives of a similar number of Americans per year (~33,000). A thorough review by the RAND Corporation released earlier this month found that, across thirteen commonly debated public policy initiatives pertaining to firearms, only one, child access prevention laws, had robust scientific evidence evaluating outcomes.*
This is unacceptable. Obtaining federal funding for gun violence research this year is a major victory. But what happens next year, when public attention may be less focused on this issue? The year after that? And will the researchers funded this year be permitted to conduct their studies and arrive at conclusions impartially, without the fingers of the NRA on the scale? Congress needs to take the next step and repeal the Dickey amendment so that the American public can obtain the data it needs to make informed policy decisions regarding firearm regulation.
For these reasons, the Denver March for Science endorses the national March for Science open letter calling on Congress to approve the funding and support we need to make evidence-based policies to prevent gun violence a reality.
To the survivors, parents, families, and everyone marching in Denver and around the world today: thank you for your courage, your passion, and your voices. We stand, and march, with you.
* Child access prevention laws have been found to reduce the rates of suicide and unintentional injuries and deaths. Neither federal nor Colorado law currently require firearm owners to store weapons and ammunition in a way that prevents unsupervised access by children. One of the NRA’s own firearm safety rules directs, “Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.”