A tentative deal to provide $25 million in federal funds for gun violence research is winning praise from advocates and researchers hopeful that it will kickstart a new bipartisan effort to reduce a significant cause of deaths in America.
“It’s a new day in Washington,” said Jeremy Travis, vice president of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures, which last year launched the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research, one of the largest non-government gun violence research efforts, in an effort to fill the gap created over two decades ago when Congress barred federal funds for research that would “advocate or promote gun control.”
The 1996 Dickey Amendment effectively shrank Washington’s support for gun-related scholarship to a trickle of support in a few agencies such as the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
Travis, who was director of the NIJ at the time, said the decision effectively broke the impasse created by years of ideological wrangling.
“For the first time in over two decades, the U.S. Congress is explicitly appropriating funds for research on gun violence — research that will be critical to saving lives and making the nation a safer place,” Travis said in a statement. “Even more critically, this funding has bipartisan support.”
The spending deal agreed on Monday will evenly split the amount, with $12.5 million each for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
“Violence and suicide have a number of causes,” according to the cautious language of the agreements, which recommended that each agency “take a comprehensive approach to studying these underlying causes and evidence-based methods of prevention of injury, including crime prevention.”
Although it’s less than the $50 million originally authorized by the House in a June budget bill, specialists in gun research welcomed the measure as historic, according to media reports.
“It’s the biggest amount the federal government has ever put into firearms research,” Dr. Mark Rosenberg, former head of the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, told ABC News. “It signals an end to the drought of knowledge about preventing this significant problem.”
According to a 2017 analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine, firearm violence research fell 64 percent since passage of the Dickey Amendment, which blocked most federal research funding on gun violence.
“Year after year Congress has been basically maintained this ban out of this kind of faulty idea that gun violence research has somehow [been] partisan,” Jonathan Metzl, professor and director of Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University, told ABC Live’s “The Briefing Room.”
“So as a result it is one of the most understudied causes of death in the United States and it’s just really fantastic to see some movement from Congress.”
Advocates pointed out that the money was still considerably less than the federal government provides for research on other prevention issues, such as the $90 million authorized to research highway safety.
But Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn) said the fact that the deal was struck on the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting which left 20 children and six adults dead gave it extra significance, The Hill reported.
“The significance of this achievement cannot be understated,” she said.
“It follows on the progress we made earlier this year by holding the first hearing on gun violence research in more than two decades.”