Congress finally funds gun violence research again after 20 years

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For the first time in two decades, Congress will set aside funding to study the epidemic of gun violence in the country.

For the first time in 20 years, Congressional negotiators agreed to set aside millions of dollars to research gun violence, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, announced on Monday.

"I secured a historic $25 million investment for gun violence prevention research," Lowey wrote on Monday, adding that soon, the "best public health researchers in the country will be put to work to identify ways to reduce injury and death due to firearms."

Half the funding will go to the Centers for Disease Control, and the other half will go to the National Institutes of Health, according to ABC News.

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Gun safety advocates praised the deal made by Congress, which will be included in an annual spending omnibus expected to be passed by Congress this week and signed into law by Donald Trump.

The $25 million in funding "marks an important victory for the gun safety movement," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. He added, "for the first time in more than 20 years, Congress will be appropriating funding specifically for research on gun violence, which now kills more Americans than car accidents."

Feinblatt also called on the Senate to stop stalling and pass gun safety legislation passed by the House in February.

Funding for gun violence research has been essentially frozen since 1996, when Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, which prohibited federal spending on research that would "advocate or promote gun control."

In 2018, gun safety became one of the major topics of the midterm elections, in part because survivors of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, spearheaded March for Our Lives, one of the largest gun safety marches in U.S. history. Scores of pro-gun safety candidates won in November, helping Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives and ensuring gun safety would be a top legislative priority.

One of the freshman members to enter Congress in 2019 was Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), who lost her son Jordan to gun violence in 2012.

"As a survivor of gun violence, I could not be more proud of the measures we have taken to save the countless numbers of lives that may be affected by gun violence in the future," McBath said on the House floor in support of the research funding. "The time has passed for my son, the time has passed for others like my son, who was killed unnecessarily due to gun violence. But I am so grateful for this day. I’m so grateful for the research that will save many lives for generations to come," she added.

"The politics of gun violence are literally shifting beneath our feet," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in a statement about the funding deal. "The small steps forward on gun safety in this budget bill — including the funding for research I fought for and secured — are really good news."

But Murphy is not content to settle for just the funding.

"We need to continue urging Mitch McConnell to schedule a debate and vote on universal background checks legislation in the Senate," he added. "We also came really close to an agreement with the White House to expand background checks earlier his year, and we have to remind Trump that we're ready to pick those negotiations back up at any time."

Trump abandoned efforts at gun safety legislation after meeting with the NRA, which opposes virtually all gun safety measures and spent $30 million to help Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Allocating funding for gun violence research is "without a doubt the most meaningful step that federal lawmakers have taken to addressing gun violence as a public health emergency," Ted Alcorn, an associate at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, told ABC News. "It's one thing to make statements about our concerns about gun violence. It's something entirely different to put cash on the table."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.