While gun control debates rage in Washington D.C., even as the nation reels from its latest tragedy, 426,000 physicians are standing strong against gun violence and pushing to obtain more data on its effects on our country. Doctors from the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Psychiatric Association are asking Congress to provide funding to the CDC for gun violence-related research and help stop the “increasing health epidemic that kills approximately 91 Americans every day.” Wait, a minute. Congress currently doesn’t provide funding for research on such a critical health issue? Nope, and it hasn’t for the past twenty years, when a bill rider was passed that stated the CDC could not fund research that would “advocate or promote gun control” and Congress simultaneously slashed any support for funding in that area of research.
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In 1996, the Dickey Amendment, a rider to the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Bill was passed. It specifically stated that the CDC could not fund research that would “advocate or promote gun control.” The same bill has continued to pass each year, basically tying the hands of researchers in this country who are interested in studying gun violence. Even Jay Dickey, author of the Amendment, now says, “it is my position that somehow or some way we should slowly but methodically fund [gun] research until a solution is reached. Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution.”
The nearly half million doctors who supported the statement are hoping that Congress will act to release researchers from these limitations so that issues such as gun-related suicides, children’s health, and whether policies including background checks and public education are being affected by gun violence and deaths can actually be studied. The statement reads, “As physicians, we focus on prevention and healing… Our organizations will continue to urge decision makers to recognize violence as a public health threat and to take action to reduce its devastating effects.” We can only hope that Congress will take this prescription for studying and hopefully better understanding the devastating health epidemic that is gun violence, and actually take action to fill it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has long been vocal about gun control, and in 1992 issued a statement supporting a handgun and assault weapons ban — and encouraged doctors to discuss gun safety around children. Although the pediatrician members of the AAP vary widely in their approach with families in discussing guns in the home, the NRA has sponsored legislation in multiple states to forbid doctors from even talking about gun safety and asking whether the family keeps guns at home.