WASHINGTON (January 15, 2013) – According to media reports, a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden has recommended lifting restrictions on federally funded scientific research regarding gun violence. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is urging the Obama administration and Congress to embrace that recommendation.
“Ending these restrictions is just common sense; it’s much harder to address a problem when you aren’t investigating it,” said Michael Halpern with the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS. “Nobody benefits from these research restrictions: not gun owners, not gun control advocates and certainly not victims of gun violence.”
In a blog post, Halpern reviewed developments related to several of the federal restrictions on gun research which organizations such as the National Rifle Association and its supporters have secured over the years. These include limits on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research adopted in 1996, constraints placed on National Institutes of Health-funded research in 2011 and a provision under the Affordable Care Act that stymies doctors’ ability to ask patients about guns in their homes. These restrictions have created a chilling effect on gun violence research, according to UCS.
Andrew Rosenberg, director of Center for Science and Democracy at UCS said the United States has traditionally relied on science to support policy. “The most contentious questions can give us the most meaningful answers,” he said. “Science has eradicated diseases and made our cars safer. It can help us reduce gun violence, too.”
Last week, more than 100 experts signed a letter organized by the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab urging Biden to recommend lifting the restrictions. They point out that since 1973, the National Institutes of Health awarded just three major grants to study firearm injuries while more than four million Americans suffered from them. By comparison, they say, the agency awarded 212 awards to study cholera, which affected just 400 American during the same time period.
UCS supports the effective use of science in policy making. The organization does not take a position on policies that directly address gun violence.