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Hey Congress, Get Your Head Out of The Sand – Approve CDC Research on Gun Violence

June 21, 2016

Morning Zen ~ Scott Bryant-Comstock ~

Another horrific mass murder takes place, this time in Orlando, Florida, and still, we have a Congress that continues to shuffle its feet on the topic of gun violence. For those in Congress who speak of “doing something now” to stem the tide of mass shootings, I have an idea for you – Reverse the nearly 20-year-old ban on funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research on gun violence. 

We as a nation of voters need to hold our representatives’ feet to the fire on this issue. Over the past two years, we have seen a dramatic uptick in the political debate about mental health reform. The debate has at times blatantly, and other times, more subtly, made the connection between mental illness and violence. This connection continues to be made, in spite of the research showing that people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime. Using the fear tactics inherent in connecting mental illness and violence while simultaneously blocking funding for research to understand better gun violence is not only disingenuous, it is unforgivable.

In June of last year, the House Appropriations Committee voted 19-32 against ranking member Rep. Nita Lowey’s (D-N.Y.) proposed amendment to a bill that would fund health, education and labor programs in the next fiscal year. Representative Lowey’s amendment would have reversed a nearly 20-year-old ban on funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research on gun violence. Specifically, the amendment would have struck Section 216 from the bill (Section 216 prohibits funds from being used to advocate or promote gun control) and this section of text from the accompanying report(page 47-48):

  • Gun Research.—The Committee continues the general provision to prevent any funds provided from being spent on gun research, to include collecting data for potential future research, such as was proposed in the budget request for the National Violent Death Re- porting System. The Committee notes the budget request for Gun Violence Prevention Research is not funded and would be contrary to the prohibition. The Committee reminds CDC that the long- standing general provision’s intent is to protect rights granted by the Second Amendment. The restriction is to prevent activity that would undertake activities (to include data collection) for current or future research, including under the title ‘‘gun violence prevention’’, that could be used in any manner to result in a future policy, guidelines, or recommendations to limit access to guns, ammunition, or to create a list of gun owners.

For readers who have congressional representatives that continue to invoke a mental illness – violence connection, yet pride themselves on being forward thinking about mental health reform, time for a gut check.

Put on your advocacy hat, pick up the phone and call your representative’s office. Ask them what they think about the wisdom of blocking a proposal that would have reversed a nearly 20-year-old ban on funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research on gun violence. Ask them if they think this action falls in line with their publicly-held position on the connection between guns, violence and mental illness. Ask them, regardless of their position on gun violence and mental illness, if they think it would be a good idea to get a better handle on understanding the increasing gun violence in America. Ask them if they are committed to designing mental health legislation that incorporates sound research on gun violence. Remind them that the current mental health reform proposal in the House (H.R. 2646) “requires” family members of mentally ill individuals who have committed violent acts to be involved in decision-making around government grants focused on mental illness. Then ask them again, if they think it would be important to include sound research to understand gun violence in America better.

Hold your representative’s feet to the fire on this issue, Network faithful. Over the past two years, we have seen a dramatic uptick in the political debate about mental health reform. The debate has at times blatantly, and other times, more subtly, made the connection between mental illness and violence. This connection continues to be made, in spite of the research showing that people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime. Using the fear tactics inherent in connecting mental illness and violence while simultaneously blocking funding for research to understand better gun violence is not only disingenuous, it is unforgivable.

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scott

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO
Children’s Mental Health Network

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