Thursday, December 3, 2015

Doctors to Congress: Fund gun violence research at the CDC and NIH

Previous mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut and Charlestown, South Carolina merely elicted visual statements of sadness and disgust from me.  Yesterday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, California has finally prompted me to do more than post images of Grumpy Cat and Professor Farnsworth.  I'm calling attention to an act of scientific censorship and joining others in asking for it to end.  Sam Seder explains the situation in The CDC Can't Study Gun Violence and Here's Why...

How Republicans destroyed studies on the effects on public health of gun ownership...
There's more on the history of this action in a press release from Doctors For America: Over 2,000 Physicians Urge Congress to End the Ban on CDC and NIH Gun Violence Research.
In 1996, under intense pressure from the gun lobby, Congress added an amendment to an appropriations bill that effectively blocked the CDC from carrying out the necessary research to better understand how to prevent gun violence. In addition to the ban, Congress also cut funding for gun violence research and, in 2011, extended the research restriction to the NIH. The result of these actions has had a chilling effect on gun violence research.

Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), the author, has stated repeatedly that he regrets offering the amendment and thinks it should be repealed. Despite Rep. Dickey’s comments and President Obama’s executive action in 2013 directing the CDC to resume gun violence research, Congress has provided no funding, and the restrictive language remains in place.
As a scientist who believes in finding the facts and acting upon them for the common good, this ban offends me.  I'm joining with Doctors for America and other medical associations in saying “It's time to lift the effective ban and fund the research needed to save lives.”

Follow over the jump for the rest of the press release.

Here's all of the statement except for the passage I quoted above the jump.
Washington, DC – Physicians with Doctors for America joined the National Physicians Alliance, Doctors Council, American Medical Women’s Association, American College of Preventive Medicine, The Committee of Interns and Residents, Physicians for the Prevention of Gun Violence, American Medical Student Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and special guests Reps. David Price, Nita Lowey, Mike Thompson, Robin Kelly and Mike Quigley to urge Congress to end the effective ban on the ability for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research on gun violence.

Over 2,000 doctors in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia signed a petition urging Congress to remove these barriers to common sense research that have existed for nearly 20 years and include annual funding to identify causes and ways to prevent gun violence.

“Gun violence is a public health problem that kills 90 Americans a day,” said Dr. Alice Chen, Executive Director of Doctors for America. “Physicians believe it’s time to lift this effective ban and fund the research needed to save lives. We urge Congress to put patients over politics to help find solutions to our Nation’s gun violence crisis.”

“Gun violence is among the most difficult public health challenges we face as a country, but because of the deeply misguided ban on research, we know very little about it,” said Rep. David Price. “Regardless of where we stand in the debate over gun violence, we should all be able to agree that this debate should be informed by objective data and robust scientific research. I am pleased to join members of the medical community from around the country to call for the ban’s repeal, which would allow for a more honest dialogue about possible solutions to the gun violence epidemic.”
“For over 20 years, politicians have put a gag order on public health research for gun violence only to score political points” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney. “On public health matters, it’s critical we listen to doctors—not politicians. Every day 89 people die because of gun violence, and we cannot let politics get in the way of our response to this epidemic. That’s why it’s essential to remove these obstructive riders and pass my bill to fund public health research on gun violence.”

Since 1996, the federal government has spent $240 million a year on traffic safety research, which has saved 360,000 lives since 1970.  During the same period, there has been almost no publicly funded research on gun violence, which kills the same number of people every year.  As a result, many questions remain unanswered on the most effective ways to prevent gun violence.

“There is not one good reason that the CDC and NIH shouldn’t be allowed to research the causes of gun violence,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. “Even Jay Dickey who wrote the amendment banning CDC research into the causes of gun violence thinks it should be done away with. Gun violence takes the lives of 30-plus Americans every single day. There are experts who are ready and able to conduct research on what can be done to stop it. The problem right now is they’re hamstrung. Doctors agree, medical professionals agree, even the author of the amendment agrees: it’s time let our experts do what they do best – conduct research that will save some lives.”

Physicians and public health professionals know that federal research is crucial to saving lives. Federal scientific data has driven policy to save lives from motor vehicle accidents, sudden infant death syndrome, lead poisoning, and countless other public health crises. Doctors believe it’s time for Congress to lift the effective ban, fund research, and save lives.
I'm with the doctors.  Stop the scientific censorship and fund gun violence research.


  1. I'd like to clarify the discrepancy in the numbers.

    In the third paragraph of the excerpt: “Gun violence is a public health problem that kills 90 Americans a day,” said Dr. Alice Chen.

    In the second to last paragraph: Gun violence takes the lives of 30-plus Americans every single day.

    Both numbers are correct, however the second one should state that 30 is the number of homicides per day, 90 is the total number of firearm-related deaths per day.

    The rest are suicides. No one ever seems to comment on the fact that 60 people per day take their own lives.

    Also the title on the infographic is misleading, it's pretty clear that the change is due to auto-related deaths falling dramatically.

    1. "No one ever seems to comment on the fact that 60 people per day take their own lives." Not exactly true, but I'll tackle the statistic first. That number is just from guns, not from other causes. The CDC reports 113 suicides per day in the U.S. Still, the majority of successful suicides result from guns. That's worth noting, and sites like "We Hunted the Mammoth" mention it as something that the so-called Men's Rights Activists could work on. Instead, the MRAs would rather bash women.

      At least you acknowledge suicide as violent death. Someone on my Facebook timeline disputed that, and I responded that the CDC considers suicide a form of self-directed violence, listing it under "Definitions: Self-directed Violence" along with suicide attempts and suicidal ideation. It also refers visitors to its website to the CDC publication, "Self-directed Violence Surveillance: Uniform Definitions and Recommended Data Elements."

      As for the title, that's not misleading. If the car in front of me slows down while I maintain my speed, I'll still pass him. The real problem is that the increase in miles driven is likely to keep driving deaths up. That might prevent the prediction from coming to pass.