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Gun violence as a public health issue is not a new phenomenon. In 2018 alone, gun violence led to over 80,000 injuries and 39,740 deaths in the United States. Through intricate involvement of the Second Amendment, the right to life and security, and disproportionate effects on minority populations, gun violence has become both a public health issue and a human rights concern.
Current laws regarding firearms are not supported by scientific research because such little research on this matter exists. Since the ratification of the Dickey Amendment in 1996, the use of federal funds for the purpose of studying the risk factors, prevention, and safety aspects of gun violence has limited gun safety research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fortunately, Congress approved $25 million in firearms research for the CDC and National Institutes of Health (NIH) in December 2019. It is an important first step towards developing evidence-based approaches to gun safety, but this crisis demands far more research funding than it currently receives.
Surveillance data on gun violence remains collected today through the National Violent Death Reporting System, but this does not provide the same quality of information that robust research would offer. In order to build a public health infrastructure that promotes the the best gun safety practices, additional research funding is crucial. Numbers are an important starting point, but robust research will help our society develop the tools necessary to root out underlying causes and risk factors that exacerbate gun violence.
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