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Gun violence is the least-studied cause of death in America

Congress should repeal the legislation that restricts funding for gun violence research

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Gun violence is the least-researched cause of death in America, researchers say. It’s badly understudied and underfunded compared to research on other ways US citizens die.

Gun violence had only 1.6 percent of the funding predicted based on how common gun deaths are — in other words, $1.4 billion should go toward funding gun violence research, but the actual number is only $22 million, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It only had 4.5 percent of the number of publications expected. In fact, gun violence research was the least-researched cause of death. To make the comparison, researchers took cause-of-death data from 2004 to 2014, and compared that with funding numbers from a database of projects funded by US federal agencies.

Since the study only looked at actual deaths from guns and since so much gun violence causes injuries without death, the actual research gap might be even bigger, according to the scientists.

Nearly 20 years ago, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, which stipulated that no funds set aside for injury prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could be used to promote gun control. The legislation doesn’t explicitly ban gun-related research, but people suspect that it has still discouraged this research. The funding for the CDC’s firearm injury prevention fell 96 percent since the amendment passed, according to a January 2013 report.

More study needs to be done on gun violence in order to bring it in line with research into other common causes of death. And while the JAMA study doesn’t explicitly blame the lack of research on the Dickey Amendment, it seems clear that the ban isn’t encouraging anyone to do more work in this area.

It’s crucial for the CDC to better study gun violence so that we have a better chance at understanding it and preventing it from happening again. In recent years, the Dickey Amendment has come under fire due to deaths from the Sandy Hook shooting, Colorado Springs, and Orlando, and medical groups have urged Congress to repeal the amendment. This is a move in the right direction, especially when it comes to such an important topic. We need more data and more studies, not less, to save lives.