The Dickey amendment has, for nearly 20 years, barred federal research on the horrific epidemic of gun violence, and the National Rifle Association has made sure it stays in effect even as its original author has said it should be overturned. On Wednesday—even before the horror of San Bernardino—a group of nine medical associations, representing more than 2,000 healthcare providers, called for its repeal.
Tacked onto a 1996 appropriations bill, the Dickey Amendment was pushed through Congress by Republican legislators under substantial pressure from the NRA, as the amendment’s author, former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), admitted in a 2012 op-ed in the Washington Post that he co-authored.
Dickey wrote that the lack of research by the NIH and the CDC had resulted in a troubling information gap: “US scientists cannot answer the most basic question: What works to prevent firearm injuries? We don’t know whether having more citizens carry guns would decrease or increase firearm deaths; or whether firearm registration and licensing would make inner-city residents safer or expose them to greater harm.”
“Gun violence is a public health problem that kills 90 Americans a day,” Dr. Alice Chen, the executive director of Doctors for America, said in a statement. “Physicians believe it’s time to lift this effective ban and fund the research needed to save lives.”
Dickey himself has repeatedly urged Congress to overturn the provision that bears his name. In a letter published Wednesday by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Dickey wrote, “Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution.”
House Democrats have also been pushing a repeal of the research ban, pointing out in a letter to the appropriations committee leaders that the last publicly funded study done on gun ownership and gun violence was conducted in 1993. Tens of thousands of Americans die from gun violence every year. An investigation by Mother Jones estimates the public cost of gun violence at $229 billion every year.