The nation’s leading public health agency has not touched gun violence research in nearly 19 years, despite the view shared by many health officials that the topic represents a serious epidemic, like an infectious disease. Further pressure to resume research came in 2013, weeks after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., when President Obama ordered the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get back to studying the causes of gun violence.
And the CDC still did not budge.
The problem is that since 1996 Congress has threatened to strip the CDC of funding -- if it studied gun violence. The threat was explicit. The CDC had funded these studies for years, until the National Rifle Association accused the agency of promoting gun control. The NRA and other gun-rights activists have argued the CDC tipped its hand and cannot be trusted to study the issue.
Since then, the CDC has lived by a self-imposed ban on gun violence research, drying up the leading source of funding for the topic.
On Wednesday, a group of 110 U.S. representatives made the latest push to get the CDC back in the game. The effort, spearheaded by U.S. Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), calls on House leaders “to reject short-sighted and unnecessary riders that freeze gun violence research.”
A letter written by Price points out that while solutions to gun violence might be debated, “we should all be able to agree that our response should be informed by sound scientific evidence.”
The letter is signed by 110 of the 188 Democrat House members. No Republicans signed on.
Price said the letter represents a long-held frustration.
“It’s been stuck in our throat a long time, this absurd prohibition,” Price said in an interview.
Now, after a recent rash of mass shootings and with Congress debating a potential budget agreement, Price hopes the timing is right to rethink this position.
“If the NRA and gun champions are so confident of their position, why would they refuse research?” Price said. “This is a particularly intrusive interference.”