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A Bill to Repeal the Dickey Amendment

A Bill to Repeal the Dickey Amendment

General

American Psychological Association. Gun violence research: History of the federal funding freeze (2013)

In 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published an article by Arthur Kellerman and colleagues, “Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home,” which presented the results of research funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study found that keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide. The article concluded that rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance. Kellerman was affiliated at the time with the department of internal medicine at the University of Tennessee. He went on to positions at Emory University, and he currently holds the Paul O’Neill Alcoa Chair in Policy Analysis at the RAND Corporation.

The 1993 NEJM article received considerable media attention, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) responded by campaigning for the elimination of the center that had funded the study, the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention. The center itself survived, but Congress included language in the 1996 Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Bill (PDF, 2.4MB) for Fiscal Year 1997 that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”  Referred to as the Dickey amendment after its author, former U.S. House Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), this language did not explicitly ban research on gun violence. However, Congress also took $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget — the amount the CDC had invested in firearm injury research the previous year — and earmarked the funds for prevention of traumatic brain injury. Dr. Kellerman stated in a December 2012 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Precisely what was or was not permitted under the clause was unclear. But no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency’s funding to find out. Extramural support for firearm injury prevention research quickly dried up.”

Pro

Wired (2019) THE CDC CAN’T FUND GUN RESEARCH. WHAT IF THAT CHANGED? (2018)

Frattaroli says a key factor, when it comes to studying the effectiveness of firearm policies, is being able to follow weapons. One way to track how violence spreads is by tracing implicated weapons to their source. In big cities plagued by gun violence, these weapons are often bought and sold illegally. “We need to understand where guns are coming from, how they get from the legal market to the hands of people who are prohibited to purchase them,” Frattaroli says. “That’s important to know if we want to get a handle on the flow of guns.”

Doing so will require a lot more money, time, and resources than researchers currently possess. That’s where the CDC might serve as both a deep-pocketed grant-making agency, as well as a clearinghouse for various databases on gun violence and gun ownership. A boost in funding would also attract more and better scientists to the field, whose numbers have dwindled since the Dickey amendment went into effect. “As I recruit new investigators, it has been a critical question for applicants: ‘Will I have a job in a couple years, or will I have to look for a job in another field because there’s no funding,'” Wintemute says.

American Journal of Public Health (2019) The Dickey Amendment on Federal Funding for Research on Gun Violence: A Legal Dissection (2018)

Although the 2018 legislative package makes clear that federal funding can support research on gun violence, it leaves unanswered questions about when such research would cross the line into promotion and advocacy of gun control. Many Democrats nevertheless touted the compromise as a major victory for gun control efforts, whereas Republican leaders insisted that it changed nothing because the Dickey Amendment was never intended to be a blanket prohibition of funding for research on gun violence.

Public health experts observed that what really matters in the end is the amount of money available. After all of the political wrangling and partisan rhetoric have run their course, the compromise struck in the new spending bill will not really make much of a difference unless funding is actually available for gun violence research. Congress has made clear that the Dickey Amendment does not bar all federal support for research on gun issues, and Congress should now follow up by specifically appropriating funds for high-quality research that will inform efforts to reduce firearm deaths and injuries.

PolitiFact Spending bill’s gun research line: Does it nullify Dickey amendment? (2018)

Murphy’s press office argues that the CDC could fund some studies right away from pots of money allocated for injury prevention ($28 million) or youth violence prevention ($15 million). But they acknowledge that more money would go a long way. Even Murphy’s press release offers a hint of caution. It said the new language is “paving the way for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sponsor evidence-based research into ways to reduce gun violence.”

Chronicle of Social Change. Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue: Prevention Should be Funded Accordingly (2016).

Refusing to acknowledge the current dearth of gun violence prevention research and its status as a serious public health concern denies Americans not only their rights to information, but also to solutions. The federal government has a responsibility to examine a phenomenon that kills approximately 30,000 Americans each year.

Politicians on the local and state level, and most importantly in Congress, have the power to allocate funds toward research in this area. Political peacocking must be abandoned in recognition of America’s most severe public health problem

The Atlantic. Why Can’t the U.S. Treat Gun Violence as a Public-Health Problem? (2018)

The problem, researchers say, is also a lack of data. While motor-vehicle deaths are tracked in minute detail in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, no such comparable database exists for gun deaths. Basic questions like exactly how many households own guns are not definitively answered.

Dickey, the congressman responsible for the amendment suppressing the CDC’s gun violence research, passed away last April. He had come to regret his role in the episode. In 2012, he coauthored a Washington Post op-ed with Rosenberg, the very CDC official he squared off against when passing the amendment. Together, they argued for more gun-violence research.

Bill of Health Blog. Gun Violence and Public Health: The Need for Federal Research Funding (2018)

The American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association both acknowledge gun violence as a “public health crisis.” But tracking down and analyzing data is an expensive operation that needs support. The dozen or so researchers in America currently investigating gun violence are doing commendable work (even while under death threats), but they need more researchers to join the movement and they need funding to come from a federal source. As of now, gun control advocacy groups fund most of their work. This of course, tends to raise questions about the partiality of the research.

Along with an increase in federal gun violence research funding, the Dickey amendment needs to go. Even Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR, 1993-2001), the lifetime NRA member who proposed the 1996 amendment came around to support gun violence research in an op-ed for the Washington Post in 2012. Gun advocacy groups need not worry. It’s removal will not transform the CDC into a gun control advocacy group, because it is not within the CDC’s mandate to “advocate or promote” anything  without a rigorous scientific basis. It will however, send a clear message to researchers from all sides, encouraging them to answer important questions about a country in which there are more guns than people. Or are there?

Science Based Medicine. Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue (2018)

Some have argued that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has no business researching gun violence because being shot is not a “disease.” This argument does not hold water, however, and seems deliberately concrete. The CDC researches all threats to the health of Americans, and being shot dead is a significant risk to health. The CDC also researches deaths from car crashes, and how to mitigate those deaths, for example. And as stated above, the restrictions on research extend to other agencies, like the National Institutes of Health.

Gun violence is estimated to cost $229 billion dollars a year to our society ($8.6 billion in direct costs and the rest from indirect costs). Reducing gun violence is therefore likely to be cost effective, and certainly a cost of this magnitude to our society warrants proportionate research.

Con

WBUR. There’s No Federal Money For Gun Research. Will Private Funders Step Up? (2018)

Kaiser Permanente recently announced it would invest $2 million in gun violence research. This is an encouraging sign for young researchers like myself who want to spend our careers engaged in violence prevention research and policy, but have harbored doubts about whether such a path is even viable in this difficult political and funding environment.

Fortune. Why I Don’t Trust Government-Backed ‘Gun Violence’ Research (2016)

Dr. Timothy Wheeler of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership also distrusts the CDC on this issue. He told CNN that the CDC is “fundamentally biased against gun ownership” and has advocated researching strategies to “reduce the number of guns in the United States by prohibiting gun ownership.” He listed several examples of anti-gun bias by the CDC in his 2015 piece for The Hill, “Why Congress stopped gun control activism at the CDC.”

For example, before the Congressional funding restrictions, then-CDC official Mark Rosenberg explicitly said his goal was to create a public perception of gun ownership as something “dirty, deadly — and banned.” The agency bias was so bad that Congress had to tell CDC officials that it “does not believe that it is the role of the CDC to advocate or promote policies to advance gun control initiatives, or to discourage responsible private gun ownership.”

The Myth of the lack of Public Health Research on Firearms (2019)

A lot of money is spent on firearms research, overwhelmingly just on Public Health research. The Dickey Amendment didn’t reduce Public Health research, nor grants given out by other parts of the government. By focusing on federal grants for Public Health researchers, many people have been mislead into thinking that gun violence has been understudied. Even looking at all published research by Public Health researchers misses all the research published by economists, criminologists, and law professors. The claims that too little firearms research is funded assumes without providing any evidence provided that all research on reducing mortality rates is equally productive. Given that Public Health research is so poorly done and misleading, the money spent is likely to be counterproductive to saving lives. If there are too few resources being devoted to firearms research, it lies in areas outside of Public Health. Any g

There’s No Ban on Studying Gun Violence (2018)

A lot of money is spent on firearms research, overwhelmingly just on Public Health research. The Dickey Amendment didn’t reduce Public Health research, nor grants given out by other parts of the government. By focusing on federal grants for Public Health researchers, many people have been mislead into thinking that gun violence has been understudied. Even looking at all published research by Public Health researchers misses all the research published by economists, criminologists, and law professors. The claims that too little firearms research is funded assumes without providing any evidence provided that all research on reducing mortality rates is equally productive. Given that Public Health research is so poorly done and misleading, the money spent is likely to be counterproductive to saving lives. If there are too few resources being devoted to firearms research, it lies in areas outside of Public Health. Any g

Why Congress stopped gun control activism at the CDC (2015)

Not surprisingly, the full committee report for the 1997 appropriations bill contained “a limitation to prohibit the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control from engaging in any activities to advocate or promote gun control.” Further, the committee warned CDC officials that it “does not believe that it is the role of the CDC to advocate or promote policies to advance gun control initiatives, or to discourage responsible private gun ownership.”

So contrary to Speier’s tale of great minds shackled and research suppressed, Congress in fact simply directed the CDC to stop promoting gun control.  To reasonable minds this is not at all controversial.  Congress should ignore the tricksters and continue holding the CDC to its mission of objective research, not pushing for gun control.

Dems shift strategy for securing gun violence research funds (2019)

No, Government Isn’t ‘Banned’ From Studying Gun Violence (2018)