A Gap in Gun Violence Injury Prevention Data in the United States

Do guns make people safer? Do comprehensive back ground checks limit gun violence in the United States? Which gun violence or firearm safety interventions work in our states? What effect do right-to-carry laws have on our communities?

Nine years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was on the forefront of trying to answer these questions to make meaningful changes and enact policies to prevent injury related to firearms and gun violence.

Last month, the United States House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted to reject amendment (19-32) from Congresswoman Nita Lowey that would have allowed the CDC to study whether there was an association between firearm ownership and gun violence.  This isn’t something new. This ban has been enacted since 1996, when the National Rifle Association (NRA) accused the CDC of lobbying gun control. The NRA then helped a Representative to lobby Congress to cut funding from the CDC budget in the exact amount it had dedicated to gun violence and firearm safety research the previous year ($2.6 million).

Although the funding was eventually restored (although continually decreased), research as to the effect of firearm safety and gun violence on public health has essentially been eliminated. Researchers are discouraged from specializing in firearm safety or gun violence due to the fact there isn’t enough funding to support research.

Databases, such as the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), record the causes of all violent deaths; including firearm-related injury and death. However, there are some limitations: this data is voluntarily reported by only 32 states within the United States; incidents which contained missing data elements (i.e. – lacking information on demographics, weapon type, or circumstances regarding the incident) are omitted from the database; and only incidents which have been reported to the police are reflected in this database.

Needless to say, there is a general lack of data and information regarding injury prevention from firearms and gun violence in the United States. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer, but I thought I might reflect on this.

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