Research for Gun Violence: Let’s Stop the Dickey Amendment
Two weeks ago, a gunman opened fire on concertgoers in Las Vegas. With 58 dead and 489 injured, this tragedy has been labeled the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States History.
Many saw this as a time to take a hard line on gun control. However, gun control is a divisive topic, and efforts to regulate this industry face strong pushback from congress and from gun-advocates like the NRA.
Common ground, however, is not impossible. What we all can agree on is that mass shootings are increasingly harmful to our nation.
It is vital to note that, contrary to public opinion, shootings have not become more frequent in recent history:
Instead, they have become more deadly:
Gun violence is undoubtedly an issue that must be examined closely, regardless of one’s stance on gun control.
Where politicians disagree is where the heart of the issue lies. Is gun violence a result of unchecked access to dangerous weapons? Or is it an unavoidable societal issue?
Unfortunately, there is not nearly enough research to answer these questions. And without data to highlight solutions to gun violence, it is impossible to effectively regulate gun use in the United States.
According to Politico, the very small amount of existing research suggests that the expiration of the assault rifle ban in 2004 had little impact on gun violence. However, the scope of prior research is narrow, and many questions are left unanswered. For example, no empirical research has been conducted. This is a result of a lack of funding.
In the late 1990’s, gun control research in the United States effectively stopped, and it hasn’t resumed since.
The Center for Disease Control dedicated millions of dollars of its budget to gun violence research until Congress passed the Dickey Amendment in 1996. This amendment asserts “None of the funds made available [to the CDC]…may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” This ultimately ended the CDC’s work on this issue, with funding into gun violence research falling 96%.
Another barrier to research lies in the Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms from tracing gun violence electronically. Instead, they must use outdated systems including card catalogs and phone systems to record gun use.
While gun control may be a divisive issue, research should not be. According to Mark Rosenberg, the head of the CDC’s gun-violence research efforts in the 1990’s, “In the area of what works to prevent shootings, we know almost nothing.”
We cannot know what drives the increased casualties in gun related incidents without research. And without research, we cannot write effective regulations.
We shouldn’t center our solution to gun control on divisive approaches that lack scientific backing. Instead, we should focus our energy on returning funding to the issue so that we can determine the source of the United States’ tragic history of gun violence.
This is a clear solution, and it should not be divisive. The Dickey Amendment, for example, is so obstructive that it’s initial sponsor, Congressman Dickey came to regret the law and even advocated against it, writing, “Firearm injuries will continue to claim far too many lives…Scientific research should be conducted into preventing firearm injuries.”
To protect our citizens in the long run, we must fight for a non-partisan search for solutions. And to do this, we must eliminate amendments which obstruct research.
If you agree that science is vital to addressing this issue, please look below for this week’s actions.
If you disagree with our stance on this, please leave us a comment. We are here to encourage discussion, and would love to feature alternative views.
If you need more information, here are some sources we suggest:
Graphs on the history of mass shootings, conclusions that vary from public opinion, and a plug for more research funding: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/10/04/mass-shootings-more-deadly-frequent-research-215678
Information on federal funding for gun violence: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/10/04/gun-violence-research-has-been-shut-down-for-20-years/?utm_term=.bb11925677c9
5 ways the government has limited research on this issue: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2017/10/05/five-times-times-congress-chose-fundgun-research
Gun violence by the numbers: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/mass-shootings-in-america/