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New Study Finds 64 Percent Decrease in Gun Violence Research After Congress Blocked CDC Funding in 1996; Study Also Finds Recent Uptick Since Sandy Hook

November 15, 2016

NEW YORK – Everytown for Gun Safety today announced the publication of new peer-reviewed research in scientific journal JAMA Internal Medicine entitled “Trends in Research Publications About Gun Violence in the United States, 1960 to 2014” (available here), which found that after Congress halted funding for the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence in 1996, articles about gun violence decreased 64 percent. The research, supported by Everytown for Gun Safety, also found that the number of articles about gun violence rebounded in 2013-2014, after the Sandy Hook school shooting. However, this is still a much smaller share of scientific publication than what was seen in the early 1990s and only a few dozen researchers are actively publishing on the subject.

“This study gives us a measure of the damage Congress wreaked on the gun violence research community, and our shared efforts to understand the gun violence that kills 91 Americans on an average day. But the recent uptick also offers some hope that we can learn more about how to save lives,” said author Ted Alcorn, Director of Innovation for Everytown for Gun Safety. “The scarcity of research cripples policymakers’ ability to develop policy solutions that can save lives – and that’s why we need to continue to fund and encourage more study of gun violence in America. No matter one’s beliefs about how to solve our gun violence crisis, we ought to be able to agree that more and better scientific understanding is a necessary first step.”

Calls for renewed federal funding for gun violence research have come from unlikely places. In 2015, Jay Dickey (R-AR), the former Congressman who sponsored the 1996 bill halting CDC research, wrote a public letter expressing regret and requesting Congress begin funding research.

In recent years, both federal agencies and state governments increased support for gun violence prevention research. In June of this year, California established a firearm violence research center at the University of California, Davis with funding of $1 million annually for five years. And just last month, the National Institute of Justice announced awards for five gun violence studies, doubling the money they had committed the previous year to $3.3 million.

But funding for gun violence remains minuscule compared to other areas of public health. In comparison, the National Institutes of Health alone spent $16 million on ear infection research in 2016.

“Gun violence kills more than 33,000 people in the United States each year – but two decades of restrictions on federal funding for researching this issue have had a chilling impact on our ability to learn how to prevent these deaths, and how to keep people safe given that guns are a part of our society,” said Linda Degutis, former Director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and Adjunct Professor of Public Health at Emory University. “CDC and other federal agencies play a crucial role in collecting data about gun violence, conducting research, and supporting scientists across the country. It is in the interest of all Americans that they pursue that role unencumbered, so we can have the best possible evidence to guide our approaches to this pressing public health issue.”

“I lived this history first-hand — I was part of the violence research community when CDC suffered the attacks of the gun lobby allies in Congress,” said David Hemenway, Professor of Health Policy and Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and a leading gun violence researcher who was not involved with the study, “For two decades the intimidation reduced the level of valuable research, making it more difficult to determine fair and cost-effective ways to reduce gun violence. If we want to save more lives, it is crucial that federal agencies expand the resources available for firearms research.”

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