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Public Statements

Letter to Vice President Biden

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Leading Democratic members of the House Appropriations Committee today wrote to Vice President Biden, urging him to include a proposal promoting increased research on firearms by the Health and Human Services Department. Since 1997, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been under a chilling restriction that effectively keeps it from conducting any research or analysis related to gun violence.

"Current law has a chilling effect on the CDC Center for Injury Prevention and Control which compiles and analyzes data in order to help protect people from deaths and injuries both accidental and intentional," said Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Full Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Betty McCollum (D-MN) in a joint statement. "The Center, which examines issues such as motor vehicle accidents, prescription drug overdoses and child abuse that leads to initiatives aimed at preventing related deaths and injuries effectively cannot do similar work when it comes to gun-related violence because of this prohibition. As a result, U.S. scientists cannot answer the most basic questions about how to prevent firearm injuries."

The congressman responsible for inserting the language, former Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), has even repudiated the provision, in a recent Washington Post op-ed authored with the former head of the CDC's Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The full letter to Vice President Biden is as follows:

January 11, 2013

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden

Vice President of the United States

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20501

Dear Vice President Biden:

Thank you for your leadership in seeking to address the senseless tragedies this nation experiences as a result of gun violence. We write to draw your attention to annual appropriations language that effectively prevents the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from conducting research or statistical analysis related to gun violence.

As you may know, language was first enacted in Fiscal Year 1997 appropriations law preventing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using funds "in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control." The restriction has been included in the appropriations bills continuously since that time, broadening to cover the whole of HHS in Fiscal Year 2012.

Although the law does not legally prohibit data collection on gun violence, it has a chilling effect on the CDC Center for Injury Prevention and Control which compiles and analyzes data in order to help protect people from deaths and injuries both accidental and intentional. The Center, which examines issues such as motor vehicle accidents, prescription drug overdoses and child abuse that leads to initiatives aimed at preventing related deaths and injuries effectively cannot do similar work when it comes to gun-related violence because of this prohibition. As a result, U.S. scientists cannot answer the most basic questions about how to prevent firearm injuries.

This point was recognized in an opinion piece published on July 27, 2012 in the Washington Post following the tragic shooting at a theater in Aurora, CO by the sponsor of the original restriction on CDC, former Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), and the Director of the Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the time, Mark Rosenberg. In the piece, they note that prior to the restriction, CDC conducted "high-quality, peer-reviewed research into the underlying causes of gun violence." Yet, as a consequence of the appropriations language, "U.S. scientists cannot answer the most basic question: What works to prevent firearm injuries? We don't know whether having more citizens' carry guns would decrease or increase firearm deaths; or whether firearm registration and licensing would make inner-city residents safer or expose them to greater harm. We don't know whether a ban on assault weapons or large-capacity magazines, or limiting access to ammunition, would have saved lives in Aurora or would make it riskier for people to go to a movie. And we don't know how to effectively restrict access to firearms by those with serious mental illness."

We conduct evidence-based research into car crashes, drowning, poisoning, child abuse, and all other causes of accidents and injuries. We should be doing the same kind of research in order to determine how best to prevent firearm injuries and save lives. Accordingly, we strongly urge you to include a proposal recommending the end of this appropriations restriction and enhanced research on gun-related violence as part of your Task Force's upcoming recommendations.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Rosa DeLauro

Nita Lowey

Barbara Lee

Betty McCollum


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