Though Republican lawmakers have been able to stymie serious gun-reform legislation following tragic and preventable mass shootings for over two decades, a step toward future progress took place on Monday when House Democratic aides said Congress would allocate $25 million to federal agencies to study gun violence as a fraction of the year-end spending bill. The package will be split evenly between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to study how to prevent gun violence in the United States, which has a higher rate of violent gun deaths per capita than Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gun violence is the least studied of 30 causes of death in America; in 2017, it led to almost 40,000 deaths, the highest toll since 1968. As the Washington Post notes, “As many people die because of gun violence, for example, as of sepsis infection, yet funding for gun research is less than 1 percent of that for sepsis.”
The problem remains under-researched due to a 1996 budget rider known as the Dickey Amendment, which effectively banned federal funds going toward research that would “advocate or promote gun control.” The rider is named after the late Republican representative Jay Dickey, who expressed regret for his contribution prior to his death in 2017.
Even though the research package is half of what was pushed for, Democrats are celebrating the funding as a win emerging directly from a limited repeal of the Dickey Amendment agreed to last March. Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut said in a statement that the research would help lawmakers “better understand the correlation between domestic violence and gun violence, how Americans can more safely store guns, and how we can intervene to reduce suicide by firearms.” Connecticut senator Chris Murphy said, “It’s not often that you can feel a seismic political shift at the very moment it’s happening … Our movement is winning. It’s just the start.” Connecticut Democrats have been staunch advocates of gun reform in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, which left 20 children and six adults dead. Its seventh anniversary was Saturday.