Congress reaches bi-partisan deal to fund gun safety research

For the first time in over twenty years, Congress has reached a bi-partisan deal that includes funding for research on gun violence.

The bill, which the House is expected to vote on as soon as Tuesday, includes $25 million for research on gun safety. The money would by split between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, and the National Institutes of Health, said one of the measure’s advocates, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.

If approved by the House and the Senate and signed by the president, it would allow federal research on gun safety to go forward for the first time since 1996. That’s when Congress passed — at the urging of the National Rifle Association — what became known as the Dickey Amendment.


The Dickey Amendment:

  • Prohibits the use of federal funds to advocate or promote gun control.
  • Arose in response to efforts made in the early 1990s to begin treating gun violence as a public health issue
  • 1993 study by Arthur Kellermann and his colleagues revealed an increased risk of homicide associated with presence of a firearm in a home.
  • The National Rifle Association (NRA) accused the CDC of being biased against guns and began lobbying for the elimination of the injury prevention center.
  • Led by Representative Jay Dickey of Arkansas, they added a provision to a 1996 spending bill declaring that “[n]one of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.”

Dickey eventually regretted his 1996 move. In 2012, he joined forces with his former adversary, Mark Rosenberg, the previous head of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, to co-author a Washington Post op-ed. This op-ed included the following statement:

“We were on opposite sides of the heated battle 16 years ago, but we are in strong agreement now that scientific research should be conducted into preventing firearm injuries and that ways to prevent firearm deaths can be found without encroaching on the rights of legitimate gun owners.”


While many health and scientific organizations have called for the repeal of the Dickey Amendment including the American Psychological Association, the American College of Preventive Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, and the American Public Health Association, the Dickey Amendment has stayed in place. For years, it seemed like federally-funded research into gun violence and safety was simply “not gonna happen.”

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