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The Dickey Amendment is key factor in the lack of action on gun violence

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As the end of February draws near and the tallies representing the number of lives lost increases, as a nation, we must ask ourselves, “Are we doing enough?”

Every time gun violence in the form of mass shootings occurs, it seems there are only two groups of people: those who rally for gun control laws and those who brush off the incidents, claiming that there is little research on the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence.

The year 1996 marked the point in which Congress passed an amendment that restricted the Centers for Disease and Prevention from using money to “advocate or promote gun control.” The NRA had been the main association in support of the bill following a wave of research done by public health professionals that showed a correlation between instances like citizens having ownership of a firearm and an increased risk of homicide or suicide. Their justification for not supporting the statistics found in the research was that it had all been done because of political motivation.

The amendment itself, sponsored by Arkansas Congressman Jay Dickey, did not specify that organizations could not perform research on deaths caused by gun violence; it only proposed that organizations could not advocate for gun control. So, what was the government’s answer to that dilemma? Maybe by cutting the CDC’s budget that year by the same amount they would need for the research to be done? Convenient.

Both medical and public health professionals have been fighting to repeal the amendment since it was enacted. Even Dickey made a statement in 2012 that he regrets passing the amendment because he hadn’t thought it would prevent the research on gun violence. The people working in public health observe the number of people that die every day, week, month, year, and beyond. They do not do this for nothing; they observe these deaths in order to learn how to prevent future preventable deaths. It’s their job. How are they supposed to do that if they’re not given a fair budget for the research needed to do the same for gun violence?

The CDC has done research on a wide range of things, such as accidental falls, traumatic brain injuries, suicides, car crashes, diseases, etc. Most acts of violence involving guns that make news headlines deal with mass shootings, yet they make up very few of the 30,000 yearly gun deaths in the U.S. while more than 50 percent of those gun deaths as from suicide. Crucial information that could be used to observe how the presence of firearms in a home affects these deaths is unattainable due to the amendment.

People are so desperate to actually do research on the topic that they’ve colluded with private organizations to raise money for gun violence research because it’s no longer funded by the government. After the Sandy Hook school shooting, President Barack Obama signed an executive order for the National Institutes of Health to fund research on gun violence, but that has since slowed down. In 2018, the government will be paying billions of dollars for public health research, yet because of the Dickey amendment, research on gun deaths isn’t included.

The main problem for researchers, however, is the lack of data. Deaths caused by other incidents like motor-vehicle crashes are kept track of in their own respective databases, yet there isn’t a comparable one for guns. There’s so little data collected that the last updated set of data from the CDC is from 2015. There hasn’t been an accurate representation of gun deaths in the U.S. in nearly three years. Rather, they are merely estimated every year based on the few statistics that do exist.

Guns are such a huge problem in the United States that the average citizen has a 1/315 lifetime risk of being shot and killed and a 1/11,125 lifetime risk of dying in a mass shooting. Evidently, once you step foot into the U.S., you’re more likely to die from gun violence than the combined risks of drowning, fire and smoke, stabbing, choking on food, airplane crashes, animal attacks, and natural disasters.

We can’t possibly expect for there to be any sort significant change soon unless we address the lack of research and other data on gun violence. Far too many people die at the hand of guns each year in the U.S. for the lack of information to be acceptable anymore, not that it ever was in the first place.

People say we don’t have enough research to prove that there’s a higher risk of gun violence when someone owns a gun. They’re right; we don’t. Only because those same people put an amendment into place to keep others from doing so.

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The Dickey Amendment is key factor in the lack of action on gun violence