California will open the nation's first public research center dedicated to the study of gun violence, reported Governing magazine.
The California Firearm Violence Research Center will fill the hole that Congress left when it defunded and effectively banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's gun research in 1996.
The news comes on the heels of one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, where 49 people were shot dead in an Orlando gay nightclub earlier this month. Since then, Congress has been embattled in emotional and fierce debates that have led to a 15-hour filibuster and a 25-hour sit-in but no legislative action on gun control.
“Congressional inaction means that states are going to have to step up more on the local level,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun rights groups, which lobbied for the federal ban in the 1990s, oppose government-funded research because they believe it's essentially advocacy work on behalf of pro-gun control legislators.
“It is obvious that the research conducted under SB 1006 will not be favorable to law-abiding gun owners,” said a statement on the NRA’s website.
California state Sen. Lois Wolk, who spearheaded the bill, doesn't buy the NRA's claims.
"The hollowness of their arguments was on display for everyone to see," she said. "Plus, this bill had bipartisan support from the beginning."
California already has a Violence Prevention Research Center at the University of California, Davis. The new center, however, will focus specifically on firearm violence -- and not just in California. Researchers will study policies, trends and patterns on firearm violence from around the world. Officials in the university system will convene later this summer to decide on which campus it will be located.
The forthcoming center has a surprising ally: former Congressman Jay Dickey of Arkansas, who authored the amendment that ended the CDC’s gun research. In recent years, he has said he regrets that decision.“California is setting a very good example by supporting the research that will empower their legislators to protect both its citizens and their gun rights," he said in a statement.
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