Seven Democrats from U.S. House of Representatives Democrats – including U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C. – sent House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a letter Wednesday, requesting he take up legislation to repeal the Dickey Amendment, which the representatives argued hindered gun violence research.
The Dickey Amendment, a rider written into a 1996 omnibus bill, prohibited funds available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from being used to advocate or promote gun control.
The letter mentioned the late U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey, the author the amendment is named for, who had expressed his regret for the effect his amendment had.
It mentioned the comments from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and House Judiciary chairperson Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. Azar said the ability to conduct research on causes of violence and tragedies is a priority. Goodlatte said he didn’t think it’s inappropriate to look at the amendment.
In the letter, the representatives said they agreed with Azar and Goodlatte, stating research on gun violence is one important way to help reduce the incidence of gun violence and unnecessary deaths of school children and all Americans.
“This is a common-sense step that warrants immediate consideration in the House of Representatives,” the letter said.
The CDC, which is housed under the HHS, has not made a comprehensive report available in regards to firearm-related mortality since the last one was published in 2014. The report found the number of firearm-related deaths was at 33,594 with the number of deaths per 100,000 of the population at 10.5.
The CDC also found 16.8 percent of all injury deaths in 2014 were firearm related. The two major causes were suicide at 63.7 percent and homicide at 32.8 percent.
In the same year, motor-vehicle traffic-related injuries resulted in 33,736 deaths.
The National Violent Death Reporting System, a state-based surveillance system under the CDC that pools data from various state sources, found that in 2015 in the 27 states that have joined this system – including North Carolina – there were 192 victims of unintentional firearm circumstances, 5,335 victims of homicide or legal intervention circumstances and 9,770 victims of suicide or undetermined circumstances.
Beth Moracco, a professor in the Department of Health Behavior in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, said anything that causes the death of 30,000 or more people a year and even more non-fatal injuries is a public health issue.
She said having funding available for gun violence research is vital for finding solutions in this issue. What is needed, she said, is a repeal of the Dickey Amendment and rigorous, objective research based on empirical evidence.
“If we want to take a public health approach to it, you’ll want to look at what is the extent of the problem, where is it growing, where is it happening, what are the factors related to it, what are protective factors," Moracco said.
She said once those have been identified, programs and policies to address prevention and response can be developed.
“You can’t do that without the research – the kinds of research that we have for other types of public health problems."
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