A two-decade-long congressional ban on most federal research on gun violence means that there is much less research on guns than on equally-deadly diseases and accidents. In one recent decade there were 100,000 papers published on liver disease and just over 1,000 on firearms violence.
In 1996, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped funding gun violence research as a result of the National Rifle Association-backed Dickey Amendment, which prohibits the agency from using federal funds in ways that could be construed to “advocate or promote gun control.” The chilling effects of that amendment, which has been reauthorized by Congress every year since then, are laid bare in a pair of charts published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Washington Post reports. Looking at the mortality rate for the top 30 causes of death in the U.S. vs. the amount of federal dollars available to do research into those causes, gun violence stands out because it has a relatively high mortality rate, coupled with rock-bottom federal funding compared with other, equally deadly conditions such as sepsis, liver disease and motor vehicle accidents.
“Gun violence killed about as many individuals as sepsis,” authors David Stark and Nigam Shah note. “However, funding for gun violence research was about 0.7 percent of that for sepsis.” Not 70 percent, not 7 percent — 0.7 percent. That lack of funding translates directly into less research on how to prevent or mitigate gun violence. In a second chart, showing the volume of papers published for each of the 30 causes of death, again, gun violence stands well apart from most of the others. Gun violence kills about as many people each year as liver disease. Between 2004 and 2015, there were more than 100,000 papers published on the latter topic and just over 1,000 published on the former. “In relation to mortality rates, gun violence research was the least-researched cause of death and the second-least funded cause of death after falls,” Stark and Shah write. While some research has proceeded over the past 20 years, the Post says our knowledge of the issue is woefully incomplete relative to what it could have been had Congress allowed federal gun research to continue unimpeded.