Spending bill to allow CDC to conduct gun violence research

Crime scene tape in a building with blurred forensic team in background
Congressional leaders have agreed to language in the upcoming spending bill explicitly allowing the CDC to conduct research on gun violence as it relates to public health. (Getty/Prathaan)

Language included in the upcoming spending bill will clarify a 1996 provision that has limited federal research into gun violence.

RELATED: Spending bill includes boost in funding for NIH research, opioid programs, but skips ACA fixes

The massive spending bill inching toward passage this week may not include some legislation that affects the healthcare industry, but it seems increasingly likely to include a narrow set of bipartisan provisions related to gun violence, Politico reports. These compromises include a clarification of an amendment inserted into a 1996 government funding bill by late Representative Jay Dickey, R-Ark., which disallowed the use of federal funds “in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.”

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RELATED: HHS Secretary Alex Azar says he's open to allowing CDC to research gun violence

Congress has renewed the amendment annually since its insertion, and Democrats reportedly had pushed for its removal from the current omnibus, according to The Hill. In a compromise, Republican leaders have agreed to explicitly allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on gun violence as it relates to public health.

The overall impact of this change depends in part upon where you direct questions and in part upon whether any funding for gun violence research materializes.

Republicans including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar have argued that the current language applies only to advocacy and that the CDC misinterpreted the provision, which led to the lack of research. 

On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal describes the clarification of the Dickey Amendment as a “victory for Democrats,” who have contended the provision has exerted a “chilling effect” on research into gun violence for more than two decades. The Hill also notes the Republican-controlled House denied requests by the Obama administration for $10 million per year for gun violence research at the CDC between 2014 and 2017.

RELATED: Limits on federal gun research spur states to step in

In addition to the alteration of the Dickey Amendment, congressional leaders have agreed to six other measures related to guns and gun violence, including items intended to bolster rules around background checks and increase funding for school safety.

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