Democrats urge NIH to renew funding for gun violence research

Democrats in the U.S. Senate are urging the National Institutes of Health to renew funding for gun violence research after the massacre in Las Vegas.

A number of Democratic lawmakers, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 21 others, sent a letter to NIH Director Dr. Francis Colllins on Wednesday, arguing that more research on the issue of gun violence is urgently needed for the betterment of the country.

“With 93 Americans dying per day from gun-related fatalities, it is critical that NIH dedicate a portion of its resources to the public health consequences of gun violence,” the senators wrote.

After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, then-President Barack Obama directed the NIH to allocate more funds for research into the causes and possible prevention of gun violence. As a result of that directive, approximately $18 million was provided for various research projects on the issue. However, that funding recently expired in January and the NIH has so far not renewed it.

In their letter, the senators also take aim at the Dickey Amendment, a 1996 budget rider that essentially prevents agencies like the Centers for Disease Control from conducting gun violence research due to fears they would lose all of their funding. The amendment specifically bars the agency from using government money to “to advocate or promote gun control,” but the Democrats argue that objective research into gun violence and its prevention should not be prohibited.

Back in March, Democrat Rep. Stephanie Murphy (Fla.) introduced a bill called the Gun Violence Research Act of 2017 that would repeal certain provisions in the Dickey Amendment to allow for more research opportunities on the issue.

The proposal was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, but so far no further action has been taken.