Democrats push for double federal gun violence research funding
Democrats aim to double the federal government’s portfolio of gun violence research next year and put that research in the hands of key decision makers.
The FY2022 budget that President Joe Biden proposed to Congress on Friday would increase to $ 50 million in federal funds for gun violence research each year. That spending target is what Congressional Democrats called for in fiscal 2021, but it was reduced to $ 25 million in the final deal with the Republicans.
Democrats believe the increase should be coupled with a directive to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that this research should be aimed at improving anti-violence programs and helping policymakers reduce crime. with guns – not just circulated among academics.
“Just doing research is not good enough,” Sen. Chris murphy (D-Conn.) Said. “They actually have to tell people and the people they need to talk to are not the same people who normally appear on their mailing list.”
“It is mayors who decide how to spend money to try to reduce this upsurge in gun violence,” he said. “NIH research could be really helpful to them, but mayors are not normally the recipients of NIH.”
The movement for more money and better data reflects the recent shift in Congress from its reluctance to fund NIH and other federal agency research on gun violence. This long-standing policy has explicitly blocked research agencies from advocating for gun control and, in practice, has dried up funds to study why nearly 40,000 people in the United States die from gun-related injuries each year. firearms, more than half of them by suicide.
Murphy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee responsible for most federal health care funding, has been campaigning for overhaul of national gun laws since 20 schoolchildren were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
Supporters of stricter federal gun laws have struggled to pass comprehensive changes in Congress. Most anti-violence programs are run by states or cities.
According to supporters, one step towards improving these programs is getting better data on why so many Americans are killed by guns each year.
Researchers who study gun violence say Murphy’s criticism of the NIH is correct. The agency’s work is often foundational research intended for scientific journals widely read by other researchers. But these researchers have spent more than a decade working on slim budgets due to bans on federal funds for their work, said Andrew Morrall, a researcher at the nonprofit public policy organization RAND.
“The people who have been doing this for decades are super passionate and super committed,” said Morrall, who received a grant of nearly $ 350,000 from the NIH in 2020 to study gun policy. “They are invested in the accomplishment of their work.”
The field of gun violence research narrowed over the two decades the federal government invested little money in it, said Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California. to Davis. In the early 2000s, there were about 15 scientists in the United States with careers dedicated to the study of violence, he said.
This has left a group of committed researchers – Wintemute has personally donated over $ 2 million to UC Davis to keep the program afloat – who regularly work to translate their work for a wide audience.
“We are scientists who understand that our work isn’t done when science is,” Wintemute said.
The field also needs funding to train new researchers if the government wants to put more money into it, he added.
Francis Collins, director of the NIH, told lawmakers on Wednesday he was “excited to broaden our approach” to examine gun suicides and the availability of guns for people who might abuse them. .
Collins told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that the doubling of funds for gun research would allow the NIH to “take a more holistic approach” to looking generally at gun safety and intervention against violence.
Everytown for Gun Safety advocates universal background checks and other gun control measures. Michael Bloomberg is the majority owner of government parent company Bloomberg and is a member of the Everytown advisory board.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at [email protected]