Following the attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, during the early hours of June 12, many Americans are wondering why such weapons are so easily accessible in an era of mass shootings and rampant gun violence.
According to ThinkProgress.org, 89 people die every day due to gun-related deaths, and may soon exceed vehicle fatalities as the leading cause of death in the U.S.
Americans continue to be kept ignorant of these facts, thanks to the Dickey Amendment, a 20-year-ban on federal funded research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), effectively suppressing data since 1996.
This ban on federal funding has resulted in the lack of accurate and credible data that would allow legislators to effectively present and support gun control policies.
In December 2015, Doctors for America called a press conference and presented their demands to lift the ban on federally funded research on gun violence.
The petition, signed by 2,000 doctors in all 50 states, called for an end to the restrictions against gathering and presenting unbiased data on the effects of gun violence in the U.S.
The petition was presented at a press conference by Dr. Nina Agrawal, a South Bronx pediatrician, who said:
‘It is disappointing to me that we’ve made little progress in the past 20 years in finding solutions to gun violence … I’ve seen children’s lives saved from measles, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, motor vehicle accidents … because of federal scientific data and research. It’s frustrating that the CDC is not permitted to do the same type of research for gun violence.”
President Barack Obama has fought back against these restrictions in the past. After the Newtown massacre that resulted in the deaths of 20 elementary school children and six adults, Obama unveiled proposals to end gun violence and signed an executive order to restore funds to gun violence studies.
But, according to The Washington Post, the CDC is still avoiding gun violence research. A statement issued by the CDC in response to queries admitted that the CDC still lacked sufficient funds. CDC spokeswoman, Courtney Lenard wrote:
‘It is possible for us to conduct firearm-related research within the context of our efforts to address youth violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, and suicide, but our resources are very limited.’
The GOP has repeatedly blocked funding for research into gun violence and its effect on public health and safety, with former House Speaker, John Boehner, dismissing the need, claiming:
‘A gun is not a disease.”
But Doctors for America is fighting back, and lifting the ban has support from several members of congress, including Rep. David Price (D-NC 4), Vice Chair to the House of Representatives Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Price spoke at the conference, saying:
‘Regardless of where we stand in the debate over gun violence, we should all be able to agree that this debate should be informed by objective data and robust scientific research.’
Also at the press conference was Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY 12), who stated:
‘Politicians have put a gag order on public health research for gun violence only to score political points. On public health matters, it’s critical we listen to doctors — not politicians.’
Even former Rep. Jay Dickey, the Republican congressman whose name is attached to the initial amendment, has publicly expressed his regret for backing the bill. A letter from Dickey was read by Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA 5) at the conference.
The Doctors for America physicians present at the press conference all agreed that the current policy to suppress research is not working. Member Dr. David Berman, a physician from St. Petersburg, Florida, summarized the key point:
‘Using emotions and belief systems to address policy is a bad idea and is going to get us nowhere. So to develop effective policy we much conduct evidence-based research. Common sense dictates we need to do something about this.’
In an ironic twist, the press conference was held on Dec. 2, 2015, only hours before breaking news about the San Bernadino shooting that left 14 dead and 18 injured.
Featured image via Alex Zielinski at ThinkProgress.org