Schumer: CDC chief 'agreed' agency can study gun violence

Schumer: CDC chief 'agreed' agency can study gun violence
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerA missed opportunity for Democrats in the border wall showdown We have the funds we need to secure the border Anti-wall is not a border policy: How Democrats can sell an immigration plan MORE on Thursday said President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE's new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes there isn’t a prohibition on his agency researching gun violence.

Robert Redfield "agreed there is no longer a prohibition on the CDC conducting research on the gun violence epidemic," Schumer said after a meeting with Redfield. "That is a good first step but we have a lot of work to do to ensure the CDC initiates this extremely important research in the near future."

Schumer added that he hopes the CDC "will use some of their newly increased resources from the omnibus spending package to get this done.” 

The recent omnibus government funding bill included language clarifying that the CDC has the authority to study gun violence.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar earlier this year said he believes CDC had that authority, and Democrats used those comments to get the clarifying language inserted into the omnibus.

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Such research has been effectively prohibited for decades under the so-called Dickey Amendment. It was inserted into a 1996 government funding bill by the late Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) and has been renewed annually.

"None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control," the provision states. Although it doesn't explicitly ban research into gun violence, public health advocates and Democrats say there's been a chilling effect on that research for more than 20 years.

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.

The omnibus does not provide new money for gun violence research, and top GOP appropriators say they have no interest in funding new federal research into gun violence.

—Updated at 1:02 p.m.