Despite a 2015 Forbes’ report that America’s federal debt will approach $21 trillion by 2019, President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus legislation on March 23 says an article from the National Public Radio (NPR).
Part of the substantial increase in military and domestic spending will fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on the causes of gun violence, according to NPR.
Government health agencies have spent 20 plus years ignoring gun violence research, so state representatives like Stephanie Murphy are excited about the new bill.
Murphy is from the Orlando, Florida area, where 49 people were killed at a nightclub in 2016 says NPR.
“It’s interesting that the causes will be researched because I’ve never heard anyone think about that before,” says first-year computer science and engineering major Liam Craig.
“I don’t think there needs to be $1.3 trillion spent on something we can control ourselves,” says fourth-year visual arts major Kayla Evans.
NPR says researchers are skeptical it will help.
“I’m not particularly optimistic that anything will change,” says Daniel Webster, a researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, for NPR. “The CDC has been willing to look at noncontroversial activities such as the effect of mediating disputes between gangs, but the CDC has not, and I don’t believe they will examine other kinds of interventions or other kinds of solutions to the problem.”
UT Health Education professor Amy Thompson says that may be due, in part, to the Dickey Amendment of 1996 that restricted funding for research into gun violence and its effects on public health.
Thompson provided information on U.S. funding for gun violence compared to funding for other public health issues. With the second-highest ranking of 744,196 years of potential life lost in the U.S., gun violence research receives the least amount of annual funding at less than $200,000.
She doesn’t feel the problems lie in the causes.
“It’s like saying poverty is the cause of gun violence, so we’re going to research poverty instead of guns,” Thompson says. “They need to focus on the policies that affect gun violence.”
According to information provided by Thompson, there are 3.2 homicides by firearm per 100,000 people in the U.S.; no other industrialized country in the world has as many gun deaths.
“It’s all about policy and implementing tougher, stricter gun laws,” Thompson says. “They’re giving funding to lots of things like motor vehicle accidents [research], and look what’s happened, it’s dropped.”
Thompson pointed out that Japan has more gun restrictions, and they have the lowest number of gun-related homicides at 0.01 per 100,000 people.
“I don’t care what anyone says; this weapon is designed to kill,” Thompson says, pointing to a picture of an AR-15. “Until we invest in doing research on things like this, we’re not going to see a change. Until we start holding policy makers accountable for this, we’re not going to see a change. Until we demand that the CDC receives money to fund gun violence prevention programming, education, and the evaluation of polices, we’re not going to see a change.”