Christine Stuart file photo
Following President Barack Obama’s executive action on gun control, U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal and 16 of their colleagues called for a hearing on funding gun research.

Since a 1996 budget rider banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from lobbying for stricter gun laws, the Atlanta-based group has stayed away from any research on gun violence. Obama called on the CDC to reverse its self-imposed ban after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the moratorium remains in place.

“Unfortunately, some have misconstrued this rider not as a ban on supporting legislative efforts to limit access to firearms, but as a ban on supporting scientific research into the causes of gun violence,” the Senators wrote in their letter. “This rider, which Congress has included in every subsequent annual appropriations bill, has had the unfortunate consequence of blocking all efforts by the federal government to study the causes of gun violence.”

The Democratic Senators cite the more than 32,000 annual deaths from gun violence as cause to discuss the issue. “The troublesome persistence of shooting incidents only underscores the continued need to support peer-reviewed research,” the Senators wrote.

In support of their own case, the Democrats claim former Rep. Jay Dickey, R-AR,  the author of the original rider, reversed his position on the issue. In a recent op-ed published last month by the Washington Post, Dickey joined with his former adversary, Mark Rosenberg, who was director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC from 1994-1999, to state that “federal funding for research into gun-violence prevention should be dramatically increased.”

Dickey’s 1996 rider came in response to an article published in 1993 based on research from the CDC. The research found that having a gun at home increased the likelihood of homicide and was quickly denounced by the National Rifle Association, which accused the CDC of promoting gun control. Since then research on gun violence in the United States has been virtually non-existent.

Responding to calls for the CDC to restart its research, Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a Second Amendment rights group, said he is concerned about the objectivity of the organization. 

“The CDC is bureaucratic entity that takes direction from an agenda driven administration. Right now, there is no way to trust any information at all that comes from them. It’s that bad,” Wilson said.

He went onto ask: “Why is there no push for studies about the defensive use of firearms?”

Po Murray, chairwoman of the Newtown Action Alliance, an advocacy group founded shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, said motor vehicle deaths have been on a steady decline due to research and “common sense legislative measures.”

At the moment, “Gun deaths are now outpacing motor vehicle deaths in 17 states and it is shameful that the NRA-influenced GOP appropriations rider has blocked research on gun violence for the past 20 years.”

The National Rifle Association’s executive director for legislative action recently penned an op-ed which said that “Statistics and data linked to firearm-related violence are complex, and frequently skewed by those who oppose gun ownership.”

But Murray believes the numbers speak for themselves. Motor vehicle deaths cost the economy $44 billion per year, and deaths from gun violence cost  the American taxpayer $229 billion.