Government funding of gun violence studies
Technically, the U.S. Congress has not prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from studying the causes of gun violence in America. However, the Dickey Amendment, passed as a provision of the 1996 spending bill, has largely had that effect. The Dickey Amendment states:
“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.”
The amendment was introduced after lobbying by the National Rifle Association in response to their perceived bias in a 1993 study by Arthur Kellermann that found that guns in the home were associated with an increased risk of homicide in the home, as well as other CDC funded studies and efforts.
Journal of the American Medical Association
The Journal of the American Medical Association did an analysis of the funding and publications by the CDC between 2004 and 2014. Here is part of the discussion:
Gun violence had less funding and fewer publications than comparable injury-related causes of death including motor vehicle accidents and poisonings. Given that gun violence disproportionately affects the young and inflicts many more nonfatal injuries than deaths, it is likely that the true magnitude of research funding disparity, when considering years of potential life lost or lived with disability, is even greater.
The article includes the following graph showing funding relative to deaths (notice that neither axis is linear):
…the United States sees 30,000 gun deaths a year. More than half of those are suicides. Are there ways to prevent these deaths? How many lives might have been saved if we had the data and knowledge about gun violence that could have been accumulating for the last 20 years?
The 29-word amendment, approved in 1996 on Page 245 of a 750-page bill, and backed since then by gun industry lobbying, has had a lasting impact on American safety.
“At the center of the debate is the question whether having a gun makes people safer or not. Normally, in order to answer questions about safety, people might turn to science, where researchers could study cases of gun violence and gun ownership to determine whether they make a person safer. It’s not an easy question to answer, but due to legal restrictions, most scientists never even get to try.”
Other organizations and studies not restricted
The Dickey Amendment acts as a constraint only on the CDC. Other research organizations are not restricted. For example, the RAND Corporation has published a study titled Gun Policy in America.