January 21, 2016

Wyden, Democratic Senators and Leading Researchers Push for Funding Gun Violence Research

Despite 33,000 deaths a year from gun violence, CDC spends nothing to research health crisis due to 1996 appropriations rider

Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today called for immediate funding of a gun violence research agenda at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Joining a group of Democratic senators and renowned national researchers, Wyden noted how a 1996 Republican appropriations rider prohibiting federal funds from being used to advocate or promote gun control has been misconstrued as a ban on funding scientific research into the causes of gun violence.

“The discussion around gun violence in this country is far too often untethered from the facts,” Wyden said. “This anti-research, anti-knowledge agenda defies common sense. It’s time to approach gun violence like the true public health crisis it is and fund research into gun violence.” 

The author of the original rider, former Representative Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) now supports funding CDC gun-violence research and has stated that the 20-year-old rider should not stand in the way. Earlier this month, Senator Wyden and 17 senators called on Appropriations Committee leadership to hold a hearing on funding for gun violence research at the CDC.

A delegation of gun violence researchers joined the lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol today, sharing their stories about conducting research on an issue without access to the kind of federal resources that colleagues who work on cancer, heart disease, AIDS/HIV and other diseases have. One researcher, Dr. Garen Wintemute, reported having invested $1.3 million of his own earnings to conduct his research.

Due to a ban on federal funding for gun violence research that almost halted entirely gun violence research, policymakers, health care practitioners, researchers, and others lack comprehensive, scientific information about the causes and characteristics of gun violence, or the best strategies to prevent future tragedies. President Obama lifted the 17-year ban in 2013, but there is no money appropriated in the federal budget to conduct research at the CDC.

 Garen J. Wintemute, M.D., M.P.H, Director, Violence Prevention Research Program, University of California at Davis

“Policymakers need sound scientific evidence to tackle tough problems. Without research, that evidence won't be available.  We should address firearm violence the same way we address cancer, heart disease, and other major health problems--with a systematic research effort that leads to evidence-based solutions.” 

Jeffrey W. Swanson, PhD, MA, Professor, Duke University School of Medicine

“Mass shootings are horrifying, but every single day in our country more than 90 people die as the result of a gun shot. We need an investment in research to match the size and complexity of the problem.”

April Zeoli, PhD, M.P.H., Associate Professor, Michigan State University

“With rigorous study, researchers can provide the evidence needed to implement impactful policies and programs to reduce gun violence. When we studied motor vehicle deaths, we learned the importance of seat belts, and later seat belt laws save thousands. We need to bring the same scope of research to gun violence.”

Other researchers participating in the press conference included: Dr. Susan Sorenson, University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Daniel Webster, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.