WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jack Reed and 17 Senate colleagues today called on the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the panel’s Health and Human Services Subcommittee to schedule a hearing on appropriating funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence in the United States.
The letter, released today, urges the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Patty Murray, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran and Vice Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, to convene a hearing for the purposes of funding CDC research on strategies to confront gun violence in the United States. Currently, a Republican appropriations rider from 1996 prohibits funding for such critical research at the CDC, even though the rider’s original author, former Republican Jay Dickey, has since announced his opposition to it, noting that the rider’s intention was to prevent the CDC from lobbying for gun control, not from conducting gun-violence research.
The letter, signed by Reed and 17 Senate Democrats, notes that with more than 32,000 people dying from gun violence every year, the need for research into the causes and prevention of gun violence in the United States has never been more pressing.
“We need to end this confounding prohibition that prevents the CDC from researching ways to combat the gun violence epidemic in the U.S. Confronting the challenging threat of gun violence needs more data and facts, not less,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The debate on how to approach gun violence in this country is contentious with passionate arguments on both sides, but surely we can agree that this debate could use some additional, unbiased data and scientific research to inform discussion and strengthen our prevention strategies. Too many families have suffered tragic losses and hardships as a result of gun deaths and injuries. This public health burden demands an assessment of potential causes and preventative actions the federal government can take to address this issue in a fact-driven, comprehensive way.”
In November, Senator Reed also called on the head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a new study assessing the efficacy of public health and safety programs that are designed to impact gun safety, including the storage and security of guns in households. Reed has also called for new federal gun safety laws aimed at making current background checks stronger, closing loopholes to prevent unsuitable persons from acquiring firearms, and shutting down the pipeline of illegal guns.
Full text of the letter is below:
Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairwoman Mikulski, Chairman Blunt, and Ranking Member Murray,
We write to request that the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies hold a hearing on appropriating funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence in the United States, and on the annual appropriations rider that some have interpreted as preventing it.
In 1996, Congress included a rider in the annual appropriations bill that prohibited the CDC from lobbying on behalf of gun control. Specifically, the rider provides that none of the funds made available to the CDC may be used “to advocate or promote gun control.” Unfortunately, some have misconstrued this rider not as a ban on supporting legislative efforts to limit access to firearms, but as a ban on supporting scientific research into the causes of gun violence. This rider, which Congress has included in every subsequent annual appropriations bill, has had the unfortunate consequence of blocking all efforts by the federal government to study the causes of gun violence.
Gun violence continues to plague our country. Mass shootings, like those in San Bernardino, Roseburg, Lafayette, Chattanooga, Charleston, Newtown, and Aurora have become incomprehensibly commonplace. Every year, more than 32,000 people in the United States die from gun violence. The troublesome persistence of shooting incidents only underscores the continued need to support peer-reviewed research.
Even the author of the original rider, former Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), now supports funding CDC gun-violence research and believes that the rider should not stand in the way. As Representative Dickey and Mark Rosenberg, Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC from 1994 to 1999, recently opined together in the Washington Post: “Both of us now believe strongly that federal funding for research into gun-violence prevention should be dramatically increased....However, it is also important for all to understand that [the rider’s] wording does not constitute an outright ban on federal gun- violence prevention research. It is critical that the appropriation contain enough money to let science thrive and help us determine what works.”
We urge the Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies to hold a hearing on funding CDC gun-violence-prevention research, and to invite Rep. Dickey and Director Rosenberg to testify. We must take steps to fund gun-violence research, because only the United States government is in a position to establish an integrated public-health research agenda to understand the causes of gun violence and identify the most effective strategies for prevention.
We thank you for your consideration of this important request.
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)
Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Senator Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT)
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Senator Christopher A. Coons (D-DE)
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ)
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL)
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Senator Thomas R. Carper (D-DE)
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)