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Democrats to NIH: Was Gun Violence Research Discontinued?

Nov 14, 2017
Press Release
Since 2013, NIH Has Dedicated $18 Million to Gun Violence Research

Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) sent a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. today raising questions over reports that NIH has quietly discontinued dedicated funding for gun violence research since President Trump came into office.  The importance of NIH’s funding was discussed at a forum hosted by Pallone and Rush last month exploring public health solutions to America’s gun violence crisis.

“We write to express concern about recent press reports that the National Institutes of Health has discontinued the dedicated funding program for gun violence research,” Pallone and Rush wrote to Collins. “Gun violence is an urgent public health crisis facing communities across the country. It continues to present a hazard for public health and safety and resulted in the deaths of nearly 34,000 Americans in 2015.”

The number of sponsored research studies published on gun violence is disproportionately low in comparison to other threats to human health like car accidents or heart disease.  This largely resulted from Congress’ inclusion of the so-called “Dickey Amendment” in the 1990s, prohibiting the use of federal funds to “advocate or promote gun control.”  While not an explicit ban on gun violence research, it has had a chilling effect on such research for the past 20 years.

Following the tragedy in Newtown, President Obama clarified that “research on gun violence is not advocacy” and called upon all scientific agencies to conduct research into the causes and ways to prevent gun violence.  In response, NIH created a gun violence research program in 2013 that has provided $18 million in dedicated funding for gun violence research to date.  However, according to recent reports NIH may have canceled the program earlier this year. 

“This funding was critical because the difficulty in obtaining federal research funding has limited the number of current researchers and the development of the next generation of researchers focused on gun violence prevention,” Pallone and Rush continued.  “In fact, many graduate and professional students have avoided pursuing research into this subject due to how the lack of available funding for gun violence research affects their career prospects.”  

Pallone and Rush are seeking immediate clarification from NIH on these reports and raising a series of questions including:

  • Has NIH discontinued the gun violence research program? If so, please provide an explanation of why this program was discontinued.
  • How many gun violence research grants were awarded during the three fiscal years prior to the creation of the dedicated funding stream for gun violence research at NIH?
  • How many gun violence research grants were awarded as a result of NIH creating the dedicated funding stream for gun violence research?

A copy of the letter is available HERE.