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Republicans agree to clarify that CDC can research gun violence

Republican leaders have agreed to include a provision in the government funding package clarifying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not barred from conducting gun violence research under a 1996 amendment.

The omnibus will not repeal the so-called Dickey Amendment altogether, as Democrats had pushed for, according to a senior GOP source.  

Republicans say the Dickey Amendment has never prohibited gun research in the first place.

A mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead reopened the debate in Congress about loosening the long-standing restrictions on the CDC.

The amendment was inserted into a 1996 government funding bill by the late Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) and has been renewed annually.

The 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.”

Although the provision doesn’t explicitly ban research into gun violence, public health advocates and Democrats say there’s been a chilling effect for more than 20 years.

Many Republicans argue the CDC has essentially engaged in self-censorship, but advocates say the agency can’t do research when there hasn’t been any money appropriated for it.

When the Dickey Amendment was first passed, CDC researchers stopped working on gun-related projects, and federal funding disappeared. Congress shifted the $2.6 million CDC had earmarked for studying gun violence and prevention into a fund for studying traumatic brain injuries.

The agency has lacked dedicated funding for firearms research ever since. Instead, the research has been concentrated at a handful of private foundations and universities such as Johns Hopkins University, the University of Washington and the University of California, Davis.

In fiscal 2014 through 2017, former President Obama requested $10 million each year for CDC to use to study gun violence and prevention. The GOP-controlled House denied the request each time.