The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now has the government's permission to resume the investigation into armed violence, in writing: the huge bill of overheads that President Donald Trump signed today clarifies that a 22-year ban using federal funds to defend or promote weapons control does not actually prohibit investigation.
While the bill is a step in the right direction, researchers will only believe that the research landscape on armed violence is actually changing when they see money for it in the CDC budget. "It's not bad news, it's good news," says Jeffrey Swanson, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Duke University. "But I'm skeptical that it's really going to change things without money being available."
"I'm skeptical that it's really going to change things."
In 1996, Congress passed what is known as the Dickey Amendment, which banned the use of government funds to defend gun control. Congress simultaneously dumped $ 2.6 million of CDC funds, which turned out to be the amount reserved for the investigation of armed violence, according to Science. The movement "had a chilling effect," says Swanson. "Not only at the CDC, but at other agencies."
The general bill that the president signed today could help defrost long-frozen investigations into the public health risks posed by firearms. But John Donohue III, a law professor at Stanford University, can think of two reasons to distrust change. One possibility could be that "if the CDC gets close to this, Congress will cut its funds, which could hurt," he says. In addition, Donohue says: "This could be a ploy to channel money to some of the margins investigators whose goal is to promote the rights of firearms."
"Surely there will be political risks."
Therefore, the CDC could be cautious about the possibility of venturing into such a politically full arena again, says Philip Cook, professor emeritus of public policy at Duke University. "Surely there will be political risks," Cook told The Verge in an email. For example, if the CDC-funded research was used to support calls for arms control, "there will be hell to pay with the NRA [the National Rifle Association] and his many friends in Congress," says Cook. "So I guess we will not see funds in the future."
After all, we have seen similar efforts to launch the arms investigation at the CDC, and that did not happen in the past, reports German Lopez to Vox. In 2013, shortly after the mass shooting that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama led the CDC to study gun violence. He asked Congress to fund the program for $ 10 million, but the Republican House of Representatives rejected the budget plan. Then the CDC continued to avoid it.
"There will be hell to pay with the NRA."
Other agencies filled the gaps. The National Institutes of Health, for example, have a less restrictive view of the Dickey Amendment than the CDC, and have continued to fund the investigation of gun violence according to a story in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (One explanation for the different interpretations could be that "the size of the NIH budget gives you less reason to worry about reprisals from members of Congress pro-weapons," the article says). The National Institute of Justice also funds this investigation, and has an open request for financing proposals that expire in May with the objective of investigating gun violence.
Even now that the CDC has presidential and congressional permission to restart investigating armed violence, there are still significant barriers to finding answers, says Richard Rosenfeld, professor of criminology at the University of Missouri St. Louis. The Tiahrt Amendments, for example, prevent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from sharing information on firearms trafficking with the public, including investigators, according to the Giffords Law Center, which advocates the safety of weapons. That's a big problem for scientists who want to track where the firearms used in the crimes come from and where they're going, says Rosenfeld. "For my life I can not understand why someone would put an obstacle in the way of research that would help us understand and reduce violence with firearms," he says.
"Good information is everything."
The availability of data could be enhanced by another section of the bill that calls for a boost in funding for the National Violent Defenses Reporting System, or NVDRS, says Sean Gallagher, government relations officer with the American Association for the Advancement of Violence. Science. At this time, this database collects details on violent deaths from 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Today's bill proposes to provide sufficient funds for the NVDRS to expand to all 50 states. That will be the key to obtaining a national image of who is killed with firearms and under what conditions. "Good data is everything, it's what researchers need to start and this is going to be everything," says Gallagher. "I was a bit surprised that he was there."
Still, information such as hospitalization data and court records that would also help researchers compare the effects of different gun policies in different states are isolated and difficult to access, says Swanson. "These records do exist, but it is a Byzantine process to try to get agencies to develop data exchange agreements and overcome privacy and turf issues," says Swanson. So there are still great barriers to understanding the public health risks of firearms, he says: "It's not like suddenly a huge brick wall collapses and we can learn everything we need." to know."