February 21, 2018

Heinrich wants prohibition on gun violence research by CDC to end

A gun show in Houston, TX. Wikicommons.

Following the latest mass shooting, one of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators wants to repeal an amendment that bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence and its impact on public health.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich announced his opposition to the Dickey Amendment Tuesday, saying that CDC research is necessary to help find solutions to curb gun violence.

“I am calling for the repeal of the Dickey Amendment because I am fed up with tragedies like the mass shootings in Parkland, Las Vegas, and Aztec,” Heinrich said. I am also heartsick over the estimated 91 Americans killed each day by gun violence.”

The Dickey Amendment, implemented in 1996, specifically stopped the CDC from using any funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” The National Rifle Association was a driving force behind the amendment at the time.

The amendment itself is gaining attention, as mass shootings have increased over recent years, and debate over why has no authority to look back on.

The Atlantic wrote about the amendment last week.

The actual amendment sponsored by Jay Dickey, a congressman from Arkansas, did not explicitly forbid research into gun-related deaths, just advocacy. But the Congress also lowered the CDC’s budget by the exact amount it spent on such research. Message received. It’s had a chilling effect on the entire field for decades.

Medical and public-health professionals have been pushing back—more and more forcefully in recent years. The American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association have both taken to calling gun violence a public-health problem. In 2016, more than 100 medical organizations signed a letter to Congress asking to lift the Dickey Amendment.

Mark Rosenberg, the founding director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, wrote in Politico that in addition to the amendment and the cut in funds, the agency director fired him, “the person most closely identified with the gun violence prevention research.”

Since then, the type of large-scale, independent studies on gun violence that could potentially provide answers and policy suggestions for Congress have not taken place.

“After every mass shooting, we are cautioned to wait for the facts before we act. Because of the Dickey Amendment, we don’t have the facts. Repealing the Dickey Amendment should be a no-brainer,” Heinrich said. “This is about using scientific information as our guiding light to combat the gun violence epidemic that is threatening our country.”

Heinrich himself was once a member of the NRA, though left the organization sometime before 2016. He received an “A” grade from the organization while a member of the U.S. House in 2010, then a “B” grade in 2012, when he ran for U.S. Senate.

Heinrich is up for reelection this year, a time when many Democrats are increasingly pushing back against the NRA. In the past, only those in the most-safely Democratic states vocally criticized the organization.