Endorsed by the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, Doctors For America, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Sandy Hook Promise, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Brady Campaign United with Million Mom March, Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and National PTA
I respectfully invite you to cosponsor H.R. 1478, the Gun Violence Research Act. The bill would repeal a longstanding provision in federal appropriations law to ensure that the CDC and other HHS agencies can sponsor evidence-based research into the causes of gun incidents and ways to reduce gun deaths and injuries. This research would inform policymakers as they consider whether to enact legislation that both lowers gun violence and protects the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners. A Newsweek article on the bill is here.
The CDC receives funding from Congress for its injury prevention and control program. The purpose of the program is to prevent premature death and disability, and to reduce human suffering caused by injury and violence. The CDC uses this funding to, among other things, support intramural and extramural research.
Each year, about 33,000 Americans die in gun-related incidents, and twice as many are wounded. Over 60 percent of gun deaths are suicides. Those who attempt suicide with a gun rarely survive, so they don’t get a second chance at life.
Nearly 35 percent of gun deaths in this country are homicides. They occur as part of the daily drumbeat of violence, as well as in the context of mass shootings. For example, on June 12, 2016, an individual using a semiautomatic rifle developed for Army Special Forces shot 49 people to death and wounded 53 at the Pulse nightclub in my hometown of Orlando—the deadliest shooting in the nation’s history.
As a significant cause of premature death and disability, gun violence (both self-inflicted and inflicted against others) is ripe for research funded through CDC’s injury prevention and control program.
Nevertheless, for the past 20 years, the Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill has included a policy rider stating that none of the funds made available to CDC may be used “to advocate or promote gun control.” Starting in 2012, this prohibition was made applicable to all agencies within HHS.
There is a debate about the legal meaning of this policy rider, and what it does and does not prohibit. In the House Appropriations Committee report accompanying the Fiscal Year 2016 Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill, the Committee explained the rider in broad terms, stating that its purpose is “to prevent any federal funds from being spent on gun research.”
As a practical matter, the policy rider has had a clear chilling effect: funding from CDC (and other agencies within HHS) for gun violence research has essentially ground to a halt.
I respect that elected officials, like the diverse Americans they represent, have a range of views about the wisdom of enacting reasonable reforms within the space allowed by the Second Amendment. What I cannot respect is any lawmaker who would seek to suppress research into gun incidents simply because the lawmaker fears this research could serve as the basis for legislative action that the lawmaker does not favor. Restricting research because you might disagree with its results is un-American to its core, a deviation from our proud national tradition of free and open inquiry.
As lawmakers, we must recognize that gun incidents are claiming the lives of too many of our citizens and tearing apart too many of our communities. In deciding how best to confront this challenge, we should seek out and sponsor research on this subject, not shun it.
My bill would repeal the current policy rider and express the Sense of Congress that no such policy riders should be enacted in the future.
If you would like more information, or to cosponsor this legislation, please contact Dao Nguyen on my staff firstname.lastname@example.org or 5-4035.
Member of Congress
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