Congress this week sent the mammoth Fiscal Year 2021 omnibus spending bill to President Trump, and gun control advocates are celebrating the millions in appropriations it contains to fund their issues.
The $1.4 trillion omnibus bill – perched on a raft of another nearly $1 trillion in additional COVID relief pitched to fight the virus and aid suffering Americans – includes spending taxpayer dollars to research "gun violence" as a health care issue and encourage the use of controversial gun seizure orders on Veterans.
Buried in the 5,593-page bill is a $25 million allocation to the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health "to fund research on firearms safety and gun violence prevention," as noted by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who has long championed such spending.
"Research will help us create evidence-based solutions to this ongoing public health crisis," said Markey in a statement.
Second Amendment and firearms industry groups have long opposed such funding as being unneeded and a case of researchers working backward to justify increased regulation on lawful guns. On the flip side, anti-gun groups such as Everytown and Giffords have pushed for such research repeatedly over the years. They have consistently bombarded lawmakers with public campaigns advocating for such efforts.
An important facet not addressed by Markey is also that the Dickey Amendment: "None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control." It is still intact in the bill's language, which takes a bit of the wind out of the senator's horn.
Other gun-related appropriations include $1 million to study the potential effects of school active shooter drills on students and faculty, $56 million for a slate of community-based programs that specialize in "violence intervention," as well as increased funding to the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network and Crime Gun Intelligence Centers.
Further language in the bill encourages the Department of Veterans Affairs to take advantage of the somewhat constitutionally suspect extreme risk protection orders, commonly known as so-called “red flag” laws. These are designed to cancel an individual’s gun rights over fears they are "at risk." The pro-gun community criticizes these as "rat out your neighbor" laws ripe for false accusations against law-abiding citizens. They also lack any promise of mental health intervention.
Nonetheless, gun control advocates are excited about the measure.
“This package is a critical step forward in answering the call for action to address our nation’s gun violence crisis,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown. “As we head into the new year, we look forward to working with Congress and the new administration to make sure the federal government has the resources it needs to comprehensively address gun violence in all its forms.”
Across the aisle, six Republican senators to include Rand Paul and Ted Cruz voted against the bill, as did 53 mostly GOP House Reps.
"Though the mainstream media and lobbyists will hail this legislative monstrosity as a tremendous victory, make no mistake: urgently-needed COVID-19 relief was tied to a $1.4 trillion wasteful end-of-year spending bill and countless pet projects that will escape close scrutiny because three times, congressional Democrats rejected good faith efforts to pass targeted relief," said Cruz.