Today, Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and 31 cosponsors introduced legislation that would lift the current prohibitions on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) from conducting research into firearms safety and gun violence. The bill expands and codifies an executive order announced today by President Barack Obama as part of his comprehensive package of gun control actions.
The Firearm Safety and Public Health Research Act, H.R. 321, will release federal agencies from the restrictions placed on them in 1996 that have prohibited these agencies from conducting high-quality, peer-reviewed research into gun violence prevention. President Obama's executive order directs the CDC to resume research into gun violence-- a critical step, but one that could be reversed under a different Administration. This legislation would protect the President's directive by lifting the legal ban not just on CDC but on all research agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
"This bill treats gun violence as the public health issue that it is. And researchers should have the ability to conduct studies that can provide us with up-to-date statistics, an understanding of the causes underlying firearms violence, and what works to prevent violence - regardless of any political implications of their results," Maloney said. "Even the original sponsor of the legislation to impose the research ban, former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AK), has since renounced his support.
"It's been 16 years since any government sponsored scientific research," Maloney said. "We can't turn on our televisions without seeing death and destruction as the result of firearms, yet our best scientists can't give us explanation. That has to change."
"If we want an incident like Newtown to never again befall our kids and our country, then we need an effort like never before to fully understand and address the gun violence that afflicts our nation. Ending the irrational and counterproductive ban on gun violence research in America's public health agencies will produce the information that can lead to effective action. Now that America has collectively opened its eyes to the damage gun violence does to our communities, it's time to take the blinders off of America's gun violence experts," said Markey. "Immediately after the inauguration, House Republicans should bring the President's gun package to a vote."
Researchers and public health groups, including the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and Trust For America's Health (TFAH) have already begun to endorse the Firearm Safety and Public Health Research Act.
"For too long, our federal public health agencies have been restricted from conducting firearm-related research, a critical component to protecting our nation's children and their families from gun violence," said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA, the oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world. "We applaud Representative Carolyn Maloney, Representative Ed Markey, and the cosponsors of this legislation that would lift these constraints and allow CDC, NIH and other public health agencies to conduct this research to help us better understand the causes of gun violence and develop appropriate interventions to protect our communities. APHA will continue to work with Congress and the White House to develop a public health approach to gun violence, a leading cause of preventable death in our country."
"Politically motivated restrictions on singular areas of research, such as the appropriations restrictions related to firearms, not only undermine our peer review system, but also, to the detriment of our nation, inhibit academic inquiry and the knowledge it yields," said Hunter R. Rawlings III, President of AAU.
"Congress should not allow politics to interfere with scientific research, no matter the issue. The Firearm Safety and Public Health Research Act would allow scientists to resume research into gun violence, which will eventually help save lives and improve safety," said Jeff Levi, executive director of TFAH. "TFAH urges Congress to pass this legislation so that scientists can begin to address this critical public health issue -- through research, we can prevent death and injuries from firearms."
Rep. Dickey's renunciation of his ban on gun research at the CDC and NIH is here: