Healthcare

Congress reaches deal to fund gun violence research for first time in decades

Federal agencies will receive $25 million from Congress to study gun violence in a government spending deal reached by House and Senate negotiators - a major win for Democrats who have long pushed for dedicated funding to research the issue, a source told The Hill.

"Democrats have broken the ban on funding for the first time in decades," the source said.

The deal includes $12.5 million each for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health to study gun violence and ways to prevent it.

It's the first time in more than 20 years that Congress has appropriated money for gun violence research.

"Taking action should never have taken more than 20 years," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who helped secure the funding. 

"The significance of this achievement cannot be understated, and it follows on the progress we made earlier this year by holding the first hearing on gun violence research in more than two decades."

Congress stopped funding gun violence research in 1996 after an amendment passed blocking agencies from using federal funds to advocate for gun control.

While the so-called Dickey Amendment - named for its author, former Sen. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) - does not prevent federal agencies from studying gun violence, that was its effect.

Democrats last year won an agreement to "clarify" in future spending bills that the amendment did not prohibit agencies from studying gun violence.

Still, leaders at the CDC said they needed dedicated funding from Congress to study the issue.

While Democrats had tried for years to end the amendment, they shifted their strategy this year, pushing for $50 million in funding while leaving the amendment in place in an attempt to allay concerns that the money could be used inappropriately.

Gun violence research funding was viewed as a top priority for the new Democratic House majority after years of deadly mass shootings in schools, churches and other public spaces.

DeLauro said the funding will help the federal government understand the correlation between domestic violence and gun violence, how Americans can more safely store guns and how to reduce suicide by firearms. 

"This is a major step forward to helping reduce the pain and suffering families endure every day due to the scourge of gun violence," she said.

She noted Saturday was the seven-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which left 20 children and six adults dead.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who became an advocate for reducing gun violence after being shot in the head at an event in 2011, said the funding will help "solve one of our nation's most deadly and embarrassing problems." 

Health experts have long said gun violence should be treated as a public health crisis that kills thousands of Americans every year. 

However, other actions aimed at reducing gun violence have stalled. House Democrats passed a bill this year that would require universal background checks, but it has not received a vote in the Senate and President Trump opposes it. 

The White House had been in talks this fall with members of Congress about potential actions on gun violence but so far nothing has come of it.  

Updated at 3:58 pm. 

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