After Pittsburgh, Thousand Oaks, Will New Congress Push for Gun Safety Research?

November 8, 2018 | 1:52 pm
Photo: M&R Glasgow
Charise Johnson
Former contributor

The night after mid-term elections, our nation suffered another gruesome tragedy at the hands of an armed gunman, and I’m still ready for Congress to demand a science-based conversation on gun violence. Last night in Thousand Oaks, California, 12 people- including the gunman and an officer- were left dead and at least 10 others injured at a popular college bar. It is believed that several survivors of last year’s mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival were present.

Between the antisemitic attack on the Pittsburgh synagogue on October 27th where 11 people were killed and last night’s shooting in Thousand Oaks that left 12 people dead…there have been 11 other mass shooting incidents resulting in 10 deaths and 46 injuries. That is less than two weeks’ time.

My colleagues and I have written extensively in the past on gun violence and need to remove barriers for federal research (find them here). We have seen some progress, with Congress clarifying this past spring that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may pursue research on gun violence prevention. Previously, legislative language in spending bills (known as the Dickey Amendment) had effectively banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from researching gun violence since 1996. Gun violence is a public health issue, and as with all public health issues, it requires scientific evidence to build the most effective policies to protect people. But is that research actually happening now? We need to ensure that it is.

Just yesterday afternoon, the National Rifle Association (NRA) railed against the medical community for its peer-reviewed firearms studies. Shockingly, the NRA questioned whether doctors should weigh in on gun violence prevention, focusing their ire on a position paper written by the American College of Physicians (ACP) that was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Ironically, the NRA itself steps out of its lane, weighing in on the details of a scientific paper by medical professionals.

Congress can change this. Legislators should provide researchers specific funding and explicit instructions to study gun violence. Perhaps, then our nation can rely on even more conclusive evidence on the causes of gun violence and develop solutions to prevent it—instead of relying on a powerful gun lobby to sway the decision-making with their dollars and nonsense.

We have a new Congress. The new leadership in the House must prioritize oversight of gun violence research at the CDC and take this opportunity to appropriate more dollars to help solve this crisis.

Thousands of people in America lose their lives to gun violence every year. Just this year, there have been 12,477 firearm casualties. It is unfair to the people who have lost their lives to gun violence that we care only after a mass shooting, and that’s only while it’s in the news’s short issue-attention cycle. It is unfair and unacceptable that, despite the tireless work of advocates and activists, the nation has made little progress on gun violence reform.