The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report entitled Personal Firearms: Programs that Promote Safe Storage and Research on Their Effectiveness that compiles information on public and non-profit programs promoting safe storage of personal firearms and the results of research on the effectiveness of such programs. The report was produced at the request of 19 Democratic senators, including Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). The report finds that “there is relatively little research on safe firearm storage,” and that “lack of funding and data” is often cited as a primary reason. According to the report, funding shortages and instability has limited the research on firearm safety and storage that could have been conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The report cites an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that compared available funding and publication volume for research on various leading causes of death and found that “research on firearms receives disproportionately low funding and has fewer publications compared to other top causes of death.” The lack of funding can lead to shortage of expertise in the field. One researcher interviewed told the GAO that “he discourages new students from firearm research exclusively because they will not be able to make a living in that research area alone.” Further, a shortage of high-quality data on firearms exacerbates the difficulty of conducting research in this area. The CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) has not included questions related to firearm safety since 2004. However, the CDC does plan to add a module on firearms in the 2017 survey, on the recommendation of the National Academy of Medicine.
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On May 31, 146 Members of Congress signed a letter in support of eliminating appropriations riders that have prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conducting research on gun violence prevention since 1996 (the “Dickey amendment”). The bipartisan letter, led by Rep. David Price (D-NC) states, “Although Members of Congress may disagree about how best to respond to the high incidence of gun violence, we should all be able to agree that our response should be informed by sound scientific evidence,” and argues that Congress should “allow the research community to investigate evidence-based solutions that could help prevent gun violence while still protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.” A letter in the Senate circulated in March by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) also called for the CDC to conduct gun violence prevention research. In April, COSSA joined more than 100 other societies and organizations in calling for an end to the ban.
The gun control debate has been renewed with greater urgency after this weekend’s tragic mass shooting in Orlando. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to force votes on loopholes allowing individuals on the terrorist watch list to purchase guns as part of the debate on the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill this week (for more on CJS, see related story).
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The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies met on March 25 to consider the administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget proposal for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In attendance was CDC Director Thomas Frieden, accompanied by Beth Bell, Director of the CDC’s National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases, and Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General and Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) praised the CDC in his opening statement for protecting public health in the U.S. and abroad. He noted that while the CDC enjoys bipartisan support from the committee, sequestration remains in place for FY 2016 (at least for the time being) and expressed a desire to ensure taxpayer dollars are not spent on “politically motivated activities.” Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) also spoke about sequestration in her opening statement, calling it “disastrous” and pointing out that CDC has lost $1.35 billion (adjusted for inflation) since 2010. (more…)