‘This is about saving lives’
DeLauro calls for $50M in public funding to research gun violence
NEW HAVEN — U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro called on her colleagues in Congress on Friday to support the appropriation of $50 million to research a “public health emergency in our country” — gun violence — that has gone neglected for decades.
The federal government has been hesitant to fund research into aspects of gun violence for decades, according to DeLauro, D-3, and those who joined her Friday, after the 1996 passage of the Dickey Amendment.
As a result, major issues, from the correlation between gun violence and domestic violence to the rising rate of suicides by firearm to the impact of trauma on emergency responders, medical professionals and everyday people, have not been well considered by researchers.
Now, funding has been allocated by the subcommittee that funds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute of Health, DeLauro said. But the House and Senate still have to weigh in on the issue.
“This is an issue that is of central importance to our community, to Connecticut, and our country,” said DeLauro. “We need dedicated public dollars to research the epidemic of gun violence, as we would do with any other public health emergency.”
As described by NPR, the Dickey Amendment indicates that “none of the funds given to the CDC for injury prevention could be used to advocate for or promote gun control.”
While the amendment “did not explicitly forbid research into gun-related deaths, just advocacy,” as described by The Atlantic, “Congress also lowered the CDC’s budget by the exact amount it spent on such research” at the time, which led to “a chilling effect on the entire field for decades.”
Brett Peterkin, the statewide coordinating director of Project Longevity, said the Dickey Amendment, passed into law in 1996, defunded research into gun violence by the CDC and NIH, but does not bar them from pursuing such lines of inquiry.
“Essentially, what (the status quo) boils down to is corrosive political culture that construes policy in a way that prohibits us from moving forward on such an issue that negatively impacts us all,” said Peterkin.
The federal government “has not tracked firearm injuries in any systematic way” in the last 20 years, according to Karl E. Minges, an assistant professor and director of the Master of Public Health program at the University of New Haven.
He said that this lack of data has led to a lack of research into basic questions such as: what are the socioeconomic factors that correlate with gun violence? How does domestic violence correlate with gun violence? How many households in the United States own firearms? How effective
is gun safety education? What kind of interventions can help prevent suicides and mass shootings?
“It’s shocking that so little basic, descriptive research exists on this topic,” said Minges. “(With this funding), we will have the opportunity to conduct epidemiologic and intervention research on gun violence prevention. As a country, we can begin to save lives, reduce harm, and stand taller than we were yesterday.”
DeLauro and her fellow speakers called on Americans to urge their elected representatives to support the funding allocation, as well as a federal version of “Ethan’s Law,” a measure that requires guns to be safely stored whether loaded or unloaded that was named in honor of Guilford youth Ethan Song, who accidentally shot himself in the head.
In concluding the proceedings, DeLauro noted the stakes.
“This is common sense. We have research with regard to smoking. We have research with regard to automobile fatalities — all of which has made a profound effect in saving lives. This is about saving lives,” said DeLauro. “I don’t know of any higher calling that we have at the local, state and federal level.”
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and other advocates called on Congress to allocate funding to research gun violence on Friday at New Haven City Hall.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and other advocates called for Congress to allocate funding to research gun violence Friday during a press conference at New Haven City Hall. Above, Po Murray, chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance, speaks.