Dems push to end ban on gun violence research

Dems push to end ban on gun violence research
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Dozens of House Democrats are pushing to end the federal ban on gun violence research.
In a Friday letter to Reps. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeOvernight Health Care: House passes .3T omnibus | Bill boosts funds for NIH, opioid treatment | Senators spar over ObamaCare fix | 'Right to Try' bill heads to the Senate Top appropriators say they see no need to specify funding for gun research DeVos battles lawmakers in contentious hearing MORE (R-Okla.) and Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroDeVos battles lawmakers in contentious hearing Liberals seek ouster of HHS official blocking abortions Overnight Health Care: FDA takes first step to cut nicotine levels in cigarettes | Trump's health chief backs official at center of abortion fight | Trump opioid plan will reportedly include death penalty for some drug dealers MORE (D-Conn.), the Democrats urged the two senior appropriators to remove the decades-old prohibition as part of a year-end government spending package.
Led by Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierDem lawmaker: Trump's tweets show intent to obstruct justice Trump unrestrained in latest attacks of Mueller probe Democrat to Trump: ‘Fire Mueller and I will vote to fire you’ MORE (D-Calif.), the Democrats said the so-called Dickey Amendment — a long-standing provision that has effectively blocked federal research on gun violence — leaves lawmakers in the dark when it comes to crafting policies aimed at tackling the problem.
"We dedicate $240 million a year on traffic safety research, more than $233 million a year on food safety, and $331 million a year on the effects of tobacco, but almost nothing on firearms that kill 33,000 Americans annually," the lawmakers wrote. 
"The result is a lack of fundamental research on gun violence, gun safety, and what public policy measures will effectively stem the tide of gun deaths."
The Democrats referenced a study, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, that drew a clear link between gun ownership and higher risks of homicide and suicide. It was published in 1993.
"[T]his cannot be our most recent publicly funded gun violence research," they wrote.
Fifty House Democrats endorsed the letter, including Speier. 
The group includes Reps. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee; Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who heads Democrats' gun-violence prevention task force; Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Oversight panel; and Elizabeth Esty (D), who represents Newtown, Conn., the site of the elementary school shooting massacre that left 20 young children dead in December 2012.
Congress has until Dec. 11 to allocate federal spending to the numerous agencies, a process currently moving its way through the various subpanels of the Appropriations Committee. 
Cole and DeLauro are the top lawmakers on the subcommittee on labor and health, which has jurisdiction over the issue of public health research.
As part of the spending package, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are expected to offer hundreds of amendments covering a broad range of issues. 
Democrats in both the White House and Congress have warned that they'll reject any "poison pill" amendments, such as provisions repealing ObamaCare or defunding Planned Parenthood. Their push to eliminate the Dickey Amendment, however, will certainly be viewed as similarly toxic in the eyes of Republicans.
First passed in 1996, the Dickey Amendment does not ban gun-violence research outright, but stipulates that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
It was enacted following a lobbying campaign by the National Rifle Association (NRA) aimed at eliminating the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention, which had funded the 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), for whom the provision is named, says now that installing the ban was a mistake. 
"I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time," he told The Huffington Post last month. "I have regrets."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a former appropriator on the health subpanel, said she finds it "appalling" that the research ban has endured for so long.
"It's such a statement of ignorance," she told reporters last month. "What we want to do is prevent gun violence, but if it happens, you really need to know so we can see if we're making progress."
Still, Pelosi emphasized that the minority Democrats have little power in the House, acknowledging they don't have much chance of eliminating the Dickey language.
"I don't know if it's possible," she said. "We are not in the majority."
The Democrats are careful to frame gun violence as an issue of public health, in contrast to most gun-rights champions, who emphasize the Second Amendment implications.
“Gun violence is a threat to public health, and it’s time to end this ludicrous ban that prevents our nation’s top minds from figuring out how to shield our communities from gun violence,” Speier said Friday in a statement unveiling the letter.
No stranger to gun violence herself, Speier was shot during a 1978 trip to investigate the Jonestown cult in South America in an attack that killed her boss at the time, Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.).