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COLUMN: Rescind the Dickey Amendment



In 1996, the annual omnibus spending bill passed by Congress contained an NRA-backed rider known as the Dickey Amendment, named after the rider’s author, then-Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Arkansas.

This amendment requires that “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,” and redirected $2.8 million of the 1996 budget away from gun injury research. 

The final straw should have been Columbine or Orlando or Aurora or Sandy Hook, but the Dickey Amendment has survived each one. 

After the Las Vegas shooting, it is time to remove the Dickey Amendment once and for all. 

The amendment has been condemned by the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, Doctors for America and the New York State Bar Association, among many others

In 2015, despite the efforts of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and 110 Democratic House Leaders, the amendment was still kept in the 2015 spending bill mere months after a white supremacist killed nine members of an Episcopal church in Charleston during a prayer service. 

Dickey himself expressed regret over his infamous amendment, and urged Congress to reactivate the CDC’s fund for gun violence research. 

The message is clear: even if Congress is to remain on the NRA’s leash and refuse to pass legislation restricting the power to own and purchase guns, it should, at the very least, allow the nation’s doctors and scientists to research the phenomenon that kills thousands each year. 

The amendment itself does not explicitly ban research on gun violence, but the precedent it sets has made gun violence an area of study the CDC itself is hesitant to approach. 

"The research scientists at CDC are very anxious to do this research, but the recent directors of CDC have been willing to let this eminently solvable problem fester because they fear that the NRA will prod Congress into cutting public health programs," Mark Rosenberg, a former head of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, explained to John Greenberg for Politifact

The violence our nation saw in Las Vegas cannot become the status quo, although the lack of public and congressional action seems to indicate that it already has. 

Being able to understand the problem at hand is the first step toward the creation of protocols that reduce the misuse of firearms, potentially without changing how they are made or purchased. 

Our nation already possesses the scientific tools necessary to prevent or mitigate the harm gun violence causes. It is time for Congress to allow them to finally be put to use.

jhoffer@indiana.edu

@jhoffer17 

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