Saturday, December 12, 2015

GateHouse: The first step in solving mass shootings is to undo the Dickey Amendment

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
December 11, 2015
Have you ever heard of Jay Dickey? In 1996, as a member of Congress, Dickey authored a now infamous amendment to an otherwise obscure appropriations bill. The Arkansas Republican’s name should be as familiar to gun enthusiasts as Remington, Smith & Wesson and Kalashnikov.
Dickey, a self-proclaimed “point-man” for the National Rifle Association, proposed a legislative amendment that removed $2.6 million from the Center for Disease Control’s budget, the amount the agency’s injury center had spent on firearms-related research the previous year.
Since the Dickey Amendment passed, the United States has spent about $240 million a year on traffic safety research, but there has been almost no public funding for research on firearm injuries.
To no surprise, this year The Atlantic reported that guns now kill more people under the age of 26 than do automobiles.
That’s not to mention the 353 mass shootings in the United States this year — depending on the definition you use. According to the Dallas Morning News, using any definition, the likelihood of being caught in a mass shooting is exceedingly rare — but getting shot is not as rare as you might think. More than 32,000 people are killed and more than 67,000 injured by firearms each year in the United States.
The Dickey Amendment was passed in response to a 1993 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that found having a gun in the home increased the risk of homicide in that home. In response to the study, the NRA lobbied to shut down the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention, which had funded the study.
The absence of research has left public health experts and policymakers with little to work with as they attempt to craft new legislation to help slow gun-related violence.
On Dec. 2, an organization known as Doctors for America, presented a petition signed by more than 2,000 physicians in all 50 states demanding an end to the Dickey Amendment.
“It’s disappointing to me that we’ve made little progress in the past 20 years in finding solutions to gun violence,” Dr. Nina Agrawal, a New York pediatrician told Think Progress. “In my career, I’ve seen children (sic) lives saved from measles, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, motor vehicle accidents…because of federal scientific data and research. It’s frustrating that the CDC is not permitted to do the same type of research for gun violence.”
Even Dickey, has publicly expressed his regret for authoring the amendment. During an interview with Steve Inskeep of National Public Radio he was asked, “Did you intend to cut off all research on the effects of guns or gun ownership in society?”
Dickey replied, “It turned out that that’s what happened, but it wasn’t aimed at that. And it wasn’t necessary that all research stop. It just couldn’t be the collection of data so that they can advocate gun control. That’s all we were talking about. But for some reason, it just stopped altogether.”
In fact, after a 2009 study funded by the National Institute of Health found that carrying a gun is not protection against being shot in an assault, Congress expanded the language of the Dickey Amendment to apply it to all Department of Health and Human Services agencies.
After the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which resulted in the murder of 26 students and teachers, President Barack Obama attempted to undo the gun research ban by executive order and announced he would push for $10 million in the 2014 CDC budget for gun research.
The money has not materialized. Congress refused to fund that research. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have introduced bills supporting the funding. The House of Representatives said no and the killing continues.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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