Clarifying Language Allows CDC to Research Gun Violence After 20-Year Ban

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The $1.3 trillion spending signed bill into law this week by President Trump includes language that clarifies a long-standing law barring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence.

The so-called Dickey amendment, named after the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR) stated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The provision has been renewed every year since 1996 when it was first introduced.

Observers took it to mean the CDC could not research gun violence, gun-related deaths or the health effects of gun-ownership. But language included in this week’s omnibus spending package interprets the amendment a little more loosely. Last month Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, during a hearing on Capitol Hill, told lawmakers that he believes the amendment doesn’t necessarily bar research, only advocacy or promotion of gun control.

“My understanding is that the rider does not in any way impede our ability to conduct our research mission,” Azar said.

Clarification in the spending bill brings the interpretation of the Dickey Amendment more in line with Azar’s view, a change the National Rifle Association saw as uneventful. “The Dickey Amendment is unchanged. It’s what it always has been,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said to The Washington Post. “It’s only clarifying maybe for people who can’t read because it’s already been written in the original language.”

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Students, parents and lawmakers have demanded stricter gun control measures to be pushed through Congress in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last month that claimed the lives of seventeen people, mostly students.

Despite the clamor, passage of gun-control legislation through Congress has been few and far between. The spending bill includes the FixNICS gun-control provision, which bolsters the nation’s background check system, but does not include the concealed-carry “reciprocity” bill, which allows the cross-honoring of concealed-carry permits by all states. Conservatives had considered the reciprocity measure a counter-balance to the FixNICS provision and were angered when it was excluded from the final bill.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed the Department of Justice to ban the accessory known as the bump stock earlier this month. Other measures, including bills expanding background checks and issuing protective orders against gun possession, have also been introduced. It is unclear when, of if, any additional gun-related bills will be voted on in Congress.

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