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GOP chairman: Congress should rethink CDC ban on gun violence research

GOP chairman: Congress should rethink CDC ban on gun violence research
© Camille Fine

Congress should reexamine a policy that bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from studying gun violence as a public health issue, the GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Thursday.

“If it relates to mental health, that certainly should be done,” Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteRosenstein to appear for House interview next week Fusion GPS co-founder pleads the Fifth following House GOP subpoena House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein MORE (R-Va.), a staunch Second Amendment advocate, said Thursday during an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers."

Goodlatte clarified that the issue likely falls under the jurisdiction of another committee, perhaps the Energy and Commerce or Appropriations panels. But he added that it would be OK for lawmakers to review the policy, especially given that the late Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), the author of the ban, later came to regret that his amendment was used to restrict funding for research on gun violence.

“I don’t think it’s inappropriate — particularly if the original author of that says it should be examined — to take a look at it,” Goodlatte said, “to see if there is a way to do that, to promote the cause, the core pursuit of the Centers for Disease Control, which is to prevent disease, not to address issues related to things that happen because someone has a disease like mental illness.” 

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Goodlatte’s remarks came a day after a 19-year-old man opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 students and faculty and injuring many others.  

The Dickey amendment, an annual appropriations provision, states that "None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.”

Democrats frequently rail against the amendment. House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi heckled by Miami Republicans, Proud Boys at campaign event Pelosi, Schumer: Trump 'desperate' to put focus on immigration, not health care Trump urges Dems to help craft new immigration laws: ‘Chuck & Nancy, call me!' MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the Dickey amendment has “put a chilling effect on what the CDC could do in terms of gun violence prevention.”

Rep. Mike ThompsonCharles (Mike) Michael ThompsonMcCarthy joins push asking Trump for more wildfire aid in California California wildfires prompt deficit debate in Congress House Dems press Trump on bump stocks ban MORE (D-Calif.), who heads the Democrats’ gun violence prevention task force, said Dickey told him personally that his amendment has been misconstrued.

“I telephoned him in retirement and he said, 'That's not what I intended,’” Thompson said Thursday.

“It should be dealt with," he added. "What is the harm in collecting data to try and figure out why people do the things that they do?”

Goodlatte’s interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” will air at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Mike Lillis and Peter Sullivan contributed to this report