Nearly 40,000 people in the United States die from guns each year with two-thirds of those deaths from suicide.
Not only has the federal government done almost nothing to reduce gun violence, it has intentionally made sure it doesn’t even learn anything about it.
That’s because in 1996 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped funding research into the causes of gun violence. The funding was halted by an amendment in the federal spending bill that was lobbied for by the National Rifle Association. The NRA’s goal is to prevent research into the causes and extent of gun violence and possible steps that could be used to reduce deaths and injuries.
Finally House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have succeeded in lifting the veil of forced ignorance about gun violence. The $1.4 trillion spending package passed by Congress and recently signed by President Donald Trump includes a provision that earmarks $25 million to the CDC and National Institutes of Health to study deaths and injuries from firearms.
The move comes at a time when gun deaths, as of 2017, were the highest in more than 50 years and at the highest rate per capita in two decades.
The funding provided for research is paltry compared to money for other public health threats such as diseases and accidents.
Fortunately, while the government dodged its responsibility to do research, the private sector and organizations have in recent years dramatically increased research, fueled by the horrors of repeated mass killings. Wealthy individuals, universities and health care groups have pumped funding and researchers into the field of gun violence study.
That’s because they know that solving a public health crisis requires knowledge and facts.
As more information comes in, more of the public and more lawmakers will be able to see that sensible restrictions — such as universal background checks and laws to keep guns out of the hands of unstable individuals — are necessary.