Is there anything that we can do about gun violence?

This morning I called my congressman to urge him to take action to repeal the Dickey Amendment.

The reason I did this is that the author of the Dickey Amendment, former US Congressman Jay Dickey, has written that he regrets the effect of his amendment on research into gun violence.

In a 2012 opinion piece co-authored with Mark Rosenberg, Mr. Dickey tells us that his rider "removed $2.6  million from the CDC’s budget, the amount the agency’s injury center had spent on firearms-related research the previous year."  

The authors explain that this amendment, "together with a stipulation that 'None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control,' sent a chilling message."

The chilling message has had the effect of discouraging the CDC from seeking federal dollars to fund research into the causes of gun violence.  Since the passage of the bill in 1996, they explain, the government has spent $240 million per year on traffic safety research, but "there has been almost no publicly funded research on firearm injuries."

The authors entitled their opinion piece as follows:  "We won't know the cause of gun violence until we look for it."

I'll let them explain in their own words:

As a consequence, 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.

Mr. Dickey and Mr. Rosenberg, a former CDC official, admit that they were on opposite sides sixteen years ago, but now find themselves in agreement that research into gun violence is necessary.  They ended their opinion piece with these words:

Most politicians fear talking about guns almost as much as they would being confronted by one, but these fears are senseless. We must learn what we can do to save lives. It is like the answer to the question “When is the best time to plant a tree?” The best time to start was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now.

In 2015 Mr. Dickey sat down for an interview on this topic.  The interviewer summed up what he was hearing from Mr. Dickey in this way:

You're saying there might be some way to not interfere with anybody's right to own a gun but regulate it in such a way that fewer people are killed by guns?

Mr. Dickey replied:

That's correct. I can't tell you what that might be, but I know this. All this time that we have had, we would've found a solution, in my opinion. And I think it's a shame that we haven't.

So today I called my congressman to urge him to support repeal of the Dickey Amendment.