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Senator calls for CDC to research gun violence

| Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, 1:45 p.m.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta.

A U.S. Senator is calling for repeal of a 22-year-old amendment that restricts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence and its impact on public health, following the deadly Florida school shooting that killed 17 people.

"Our country is infuriated by the lack of action taken by Congress to combat the gun violence epidemic in America," said U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, in a statement.

Heinrich is specifically calling for the abolishing the Dickey amendment, a 1996 policy that mandates none of the funds made available to the CDC for injury prevention and control be used to used to lobby, or promote gun control.

The amendment is named for its author, Jay Dickey, a Republican congressman from Arkansas.

There have been previous attempts to remove the amendment. Five years ago, President Barack Obama called for the CDC to investigate gun violence. In fact, Obama asked for $10 million for research into firearms, the CDC said. And in 2015, 110 members of Congress - all Democrats - signed a letter calling for the amendment to be lifted.

Recent episodes of gun violence in the U.S. have been deadly in the last three years. Before the Parkland, Fla. shooting earlier this month, 58 people were killed at a music festival in Las Vegas. And in June 2016, 49 people were killed in a shooting at a night club in Orlando.

The Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 students and faculty.

John Lott, a gun-rights advocate and founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center in Alexandria, Va., told the Tribune-Review said the repeal of Dickey won't have an impact because it prohibits the CDC from using funds for advocacy.

"None whatsoever," Lott said.

He said the amendment does not prohibit the CDC from conducting public-health research into gun violence.

The Dickey amendment states that "None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control."

University of Pittsburgh professor Steven Albert, chair of the department of behavioral and community health sciences at the Graduate School of Public Health, however, said repealing the Dickey Amendment is long overdue.

"The Dickey Amendment has caused a ton of problems," he said. "You can't get violent death reporting statistics. Inaction is no longer tolerable."

CDC officials did not return calls or emails Thursday.

Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at, 412-871-2346 or via Twitter @41Suzanne.

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