Dem senator: CDC already has authority to study guns

Dem senator: CDC already has authority to study guns
© Getty Images

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin Democrats, greens blast Trump rollback of major environmental law EPA employees push 'bill of rights' to protect scientific integrity MORE (D-Del.) wants to remind the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that it already has the power to study gun violence despite what he calls “widely held misconceptions” that say otherwise.

In a letter to the CDC on Friday, Carper dismissed an argument from many public health researchers who say federal gun research has been halted by the 20-year-old congressional budget rule known as the “Dickey amendment.”

That provision, enacted after a lobbying campaign by the National Rifle Association, bans any research seen as advocating for gun control, but Carper and others point out it is not an outright ban.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The agency is permitted and well within its authority to take this important step today, and I urge them to expand this critical work without delay,” Carper wrote in a letter to CDC Director Tom Frieden.

Carper cited a CDC study of gun violence in his home state released six months ago as proof that the agency “has not been barred from conducting these potentially life-saving studies.‎”

The CDC’s epidemic team quietly released a 14-page report in December about the rising rates of “urban firearm violence” in Wilmington, Del.

The city had called for the CDC investigation after reporting a 45 percent spike in shootings over two years. Out of all moderately sized cities, Wilmington had the 4th highest homicide rate.  

In its report, the CDC said it found many similar behavior patterns among those who committed gun violence: “The majority of individuals involved in urban firearm violence are young men with substantial violence involvement preceding the more serious offense of a firearm crime.”

It recommended “integrating data systems” to better allow those at-risk individuals to get help.

ADVERTISEMENT

Still, the Dickey amendment has since 1997 had a chilling effect on nearly all CDC research as it tries to obey Congress’s rules and stay out of the political crossfire.

Mark Rosenberg, who led the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control when the ban was enacted, told The Hill last year that the language was a “shot across the bow” for researchers. Since then, the CDC has had almost no funding for gun violence research.

Those budget rules have come under renewed scrutiny this week after the powerful doctors group, the American Medical Association (AMA), decided to “actively lobby” to eliminate the budget rule in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre.

Republicans in Congress have already been dismissive of that effort.

But Carper said the AMA had “mischaracterized” the ban. He said in his own conversations with CDC officials and researchers that the dry spell for gun violence research is mostly a result of a lack of funding.