Why do we need to research gun violence prevention?

April 21, 2017

Public health professionals agree that gun violence is a public health issue. Unfortunately, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is prohibited from researching gun violence and its causes due to a de facto ban from the 1990s. However, earlier this month, Massachusetts’ Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY) introduced a bill (HR1832/S834) that would provide for $10 million of funding for CDC research on gun violence prevention and firearm safety, every year for the next five years.

Experts agree: this is an American public health crisis

With 33,000 gun-related deaths in the US every year, this is an extremely important problem to solve. Our founder and Chairman of our board, John Rosenthal, praised Senator Marley and Rep. Maloney for their efforts:

“Gun violence is a public health issue that needs to be addressed the same way other public health issues are addressed in this country.

The United States has one of the most vibrant scientific communities in the world. If we put our resources and energy behind this research, I have no doubt that we could dramatically reduce gun violence nationwide without any inconvenience to law abiding gun owners, as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has proven possible.

Earlier this year, I met with 42 schools of public health from across the country, there is clear consensus that this research is necessary and overdue.” – John Rosenthal

Considering the federal government spends over $3 trillion per year, $10 million represents a very small amount of money, but the bill is almost certain to draw opposition from members of Congress who receive financial support from the gun lobby.

Gun violence research at the CDC has not seen funding in over 20 years, even in light of mass shootings at Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and daily gun violence in cities like Chicago and New Orleans.

So why doesn’t the CDC research gun violence?

If the gun lobby is so sure that guns make us safer, why are they so opposed to research that could potentially prove them right? Well, before the funding for this research was stripped in 1996, the results of research did not bode well for the gun lobby.

A 1993 study in The New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Arthur Kellermann and colleagues found that the risk of homicide was three times higher in homes with a gun than in those without a gun. It was at this point that the gun lobby began their war on science, seeing this research as a clear threat to their “guns save lives” narrative.

Not only did these findings lead to the stripping of funds for gun violence prevention research, Congress also passed legislation forbidding the CDC from advocating gun control. Because Kellermann’s results showed that gun ownership is dangerous, the legislation was seen by many as a de facto ban on gun violence research at the CDC.

We are grateful for Sen. Markey’s and Rep. Maloney’s dedication to finding evidence-based ways to save lives. While we are optimistic that the bill will finally pass Congress, WE NEED YOUR HELP. The gun lobby is great about calling their members of Congress, and we need to do the same in order to outnumber them. The phone numbers of the Massachusetts delegation in Congress can be found below, and if you don’t know who your Representative is, you can find out here.

Rep. Joe Kennedy, III: 202-225-5931
Rep. Seth Moulton: 202-225-8020
Rep. Katherine Clark: 202-225-2836
Rep. Niki Tsongas: 202-225-3411
Rep. Stephen Lynch: 202-225-8273
Rep. Mike Capuano: 202-225-5111
Rep. Jim McGovern: 202-225-6101
Rep. Bill Keating: 202-225-3111
Rep. Richard Neal: 202-225-5601
Sen. Edward Markey 202-224-2742
Sen. Elizabeth Warren 202-224-4543


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