Congress must address gun violence safety

February 15, 2018
Architect of the Capitol
Yogin Kothari
Former contributor

Yesterday, was a tragic day. A 19-year-old teen opened fire on his former classmates, killing 17, wounding many more, and affecting the lives of thousands in a community just north of Miami, Florida.

It was yet another tragic day in a long line of tragic days. Since 2013, there have been 290 school shootings, an average of nearly one per week. In 2018, there have been 18 school shootings in 45 days. On average, that is about one shooting every three days.

Overall, in 2018, there have been 30 mass shootings in the United States.

This is unacceptable. This has always been unacceptable.

The United States can do better. And Congress can do better. We continue to hear the popular refrain of thoughts on prayers from our elected officials, but it isn’t enough. It wasn’t enough for the victims in Parkland, Las Vegas, San Bernadino, Orlando, Newtown, and many more, and it won’t be enough for the victims of the next mass shooting.

That’s why Congress must show leadership. Over the next few weeks, as Congress works to finalize a spending bill for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year, and as it begins work on a spending bill for the 2019 fiscal year, there is one concrete thing that our elected officials can do to move the ball in the right direction.

Congress must lift the ban restricting gun violence research and fund critical work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The policy rider, which has been embedded into spending bills since 1996, while not expressly prohibiting research on gun violence and gun violence safety, is written in such a way that it has created a chilling effect at the CDC and suppressed inquiry into this public health crisis.

Over the years, the Union of Concerned Scientists has advocated for removing this policy rider from spending legislation and we will continue to do so when we meet with legislators and their staff.

In a radio interview, Speaker Paul Ryan said that “as public policymakers, we don’t just knee-jerk before we even have all the facts and the data.” Speaker Ryan, I couldn’t agree more. Now let’s put some money where your mouth is and lift the ban that restricts gun violence research at the CDC.

Congress should not be discouraging scientific research on gun violence. It must be looking for solutions. Gathering information and seeking data to help inform the conversation on what we as a nation must do to prevent these senseless tragedies would be a good start.