House Democrats will stepping up the dialogue next week on how best to prevent gun violence.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, a combat veteran and avid hunter whom House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tapped last month to head up a gun-violence task force, held three town hall meetings on the topic this past week in Napa, Vallejo and Santa Rosa. On Monday, Thompson will join U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; and Center for American Progress President and CEO Neera Tanden for a CAP-sponsored forum in Washington, D.C., on legislation and policies to reduce gun violence.
Pelosi and Thompson, along with Democratic Steering and Policy Committee co-chairs Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Rob Andrews, D-N.J., will hold a hearing next Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill entitled “Gun Violence Prevention: A Call to Action.” Among those scheduled to take part are Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Chaska, Minn., police chief Scott Knight, the former chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Firearms Committee; Emily Nottingham, whose son, Gabe Zimmerman, was slain in the 2011 assassination attempt upon Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz.; and Newtown, Conn., schools superintendent Janet Robinson.
Vice President Joe Biden convened a series of meetings this past week on curbing gun violence, and DeLauro was joined today by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and two other lawmakers in urging Biden to push for more firearms research by the Health and Human Services Department. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 1997 have been under a restriction that effectively keeps it from conducting any research or analysis related to gun violence, they wrote.
“We conduct evidence-based research into car crashes, drowning, poisoning, child abuse, and all other causes of accidents and injuries,” the lawmakers wrote to Biden. “We should be doing the same kind of research in order to determine how best to prevent firearm injuries and save lives. Accordingly, we strongly urge you to include a proposal recommending the end of this appropriations restriction and enhanced research on gun-related violence as part of your Task Force’s upcoming recommendations.”
Read the full text of the lawmakers’ letter, after the jump…
January 11, 2013
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
Vice President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20501
Dear Vice President Biden:
Thank you for your leadership in seeking to address the senseless tragedies this nation experiences as a result of gun violence. We write to draw your attention to annual appropriations language that effectively prevents the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from conducting research or statistical analysis related to gun violence.
As you may know, language was first enacted in Fiscal Year 1997 appropriations law preventing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using funds “in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.” The restriction has been included in the appropriations bills continuously since that time, broadening to cover the whole of HHS in Fiscal Year 2012.
Although the law does not legally prohibit data collection on gun violence, it has a chilling effect on the CDC Center for Injury Prevention and Control which compiles and analyzes data in order to help protect people from deaths and injuries both accidental and intentional. The Center, which examines issues such as motor vehicle accidents, prescription drug overdoses and child abuse that leads to initiatives aimed at preventing related deaths and injuries effectively cannot do similar work when it comes to gun-related violence because of this prohibition. As a result, U.S. scientists cannot answer the most basic questions about how to prevent firearm injuries.
This point was recognized in an opinion piece published on July 27, 2012 in the Washington Post following the tragic shooting at a theater in Aurora, CO by the sponsor of the original restriction on CDC, former Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), and the Director of the Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the time, Mark Rosenberg. In the piece, they note that prior to the restriction, CDC conducted “high-quality, peer-reviewed research into the underlying causes of gun violence.” Yet, as a consequence of the appropriations language, “U.S. scientists cannot answer the most basic question: What works to prevent firearm injuries? We don’t know whether having more citizens’ carry guns would decrease or increase firearm deaths; or whether firearm registration and licensing would make inner-city residents safer or expose them to greater harm. We don’t know whether a ban on assault weapons or large-capacity magazines, or limiting access to ammunition, would have saved lives in Aurora or would make it riskier for people to go to a movie. And we don’t know how to effectively restrict access to firearms by those with serious mental illness.”
We conduct evidence-based research into car crashes, drowning, poisoning, child abuse, and all other causes of accidents and injuries. We should be doing the same kind of research in order to determine how best to prevent firearm injuries and save lives. Accordingly, we strongly urge you to include a proposal recommending the end of this appropriations restriction and enhanced research on gun-related violence as part of your Task Force’s upcoming recommendations.
Thank you for your consideration.