WASHINGTON — It’s been three years since 49 people were gunned down inside the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are taking a different approach to the issue of gun violence, focusing on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
- Group of lawmakers wants federal government to study gun violence
- An amendment banned federal government from studying it
- The House will vote on the funding bill this week
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A group of House lawmakers are pushing for $50 million to be included in a funding bill, which would allow federal agencies to study gun violence, something that effectively has been off-limits for more than two decades.
“On the third anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre, it is time for us to do what we haven’t done in over 20 years, to finally restart research into gun violence prevention,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California.
House Democrats and public health officials want the federal government to study gun violence to prevent another mass shooting like Pulse.
“I want to make sure no matter where we are on the political spectrum as far as how to address gun violence that we operate from a place of fact. It’s important that we are able to study a leading cause of death in this country,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park.
Congress has not funded gun violence research since the 1990’s after an amendment banned the federal government from studying the issue.
While Democrats have been unable to repeal the amendment, they were able to include a statement in a spending bill last year, allowing the CDC to study gun violence, but didn’t include any direct funding for the research.
"There are multiple ways we could be looking at this and certainly increased funding in this budget will help with that,” said Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee.
Now, they are trying to pass a budget which would provide both $25 million to both the CDC and NIH.
“When public health was threatened by car accidents, rampant smoking, and serious health conditions such as cancer, HIV, federal research informed public policy that helped reduce the number of Americans impacted by these preventable conditions and injuries. Why not around gun violence?” Rep. Speier questioned during a news conference on Capitol Hill.
Some Republicans argue Congress shouldn’t tell agencies what to study, and directing funds toward research is purely political.
However, not all Democrats think research is the best solution. Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando, supports research but that wouldn’t be her first choice in addressing the problem.
“In order to move forward the critical legislation, we need to stop this from happening, we don’t need to wait on research. We are reminded everyday about how critical this issue is.” said Demings, a former chief of the Orlando Police Department.
“As a former law enforcement officer, what I think about is research takes time, and we can do everything we can to address this problem, but the research, we hear it, we see it, we experience it, every time a person is shot down, gunned down in this country,” she added.
Those pushing the bill say more data is needed to prevent mass-shootings.
“We can’t go back in time, but we can certainly address it moving forward.” Speier said.
This week the House will vote on the bill. If it passes, it will need to make its way through the Republican-controlled Senate.