CDC's Role Fraught in Gun Debate; the High-Profile Orlando Nightclub Shooting Has Reinvigorated Public Debate about Whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Could or Should Delve into a Deep Study of Gun Violence. [Derived Headline]

By Schmitt, Ben | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 11, 2016 | Go to article overview

CDC's Role Fraught in Gun Debate; the High-Profile Orlando Nightclub Shooting Has Reinvigorated Public Debate about Whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Could or Should Delve into a Deep Study of Gun Violence. [Derived Headline]


Schmitt, Ben, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The high-profile Orlando nightclub shooting has reinvigorated public debate about whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could or should delve into a deep study of gun violence.

Gun-control advocates blame Congress and the National Rifle Association for essentially blocking gun-research funding from the CDC. Gun supporters counter that there's technically not a research ban, and the CDC unilaterally decided not to conduct such studies.

Two days after the June 12 mass shooting killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub, the American Medical Association declared that the United States is in the midst of a "public health crisis" with thousands of Americans dying annually in shootings. The AMA's president, Dr. Steven Stack, lashed out at Congress for blocking the CDC "from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence."

University of Pittsburgh professor Steven Albert, chair of the department of behavioral and community health sciences at the Graduate School of Public Health, said restricting federal funding for gun-violence studies in effect prevents experts from freely tackling the issue. He said gun violence should be confronted as a public health problem similar to smoking and drug and alcohol abuse.

"Right now, we have police data that does not talk to human- services data that does not talk to health data," he said. "It would be terrific to integrate the systems and truly to gain insight about who is at most risk of being killed by firearms or shooting somebody."

The lack of research dates to 1997, when Congress added an amendment to legislation containing language that barred the CDC from studies that "advocate or promote gun control," CDC spokeswoman Courtney Lenard told the Tribune-Review.

"The language does not prohibit the CDC from conducting public- health research into gun violence," Lenard said in an emailed statement. "The CDC curtailed its previous research on gun violence not because it was legally prohibited, but rather because in 1997, Congress cut the CDC's budget by an amount equal to what had been spent on research into gun violence, and the funding for that work was cut. …

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