CDC vs. NIH on gun violence research: 4 things to know

In JAMA's recent "Tale of 2 Agencies: CDC Avoids Gun Violence Research But NIH Funds It," author Rita Rubin explores the differences between the CDC and NIH in gun violence research and interpretation of the 1997 Dickey Amendment.

Here are four key takeaways from the article.

1. The Dickey Amendment — part of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 — is a central issue in funding gun violence research. This amendment states, "None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control." Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, this also applies to NIH, according to the report. It does not ban research, but the two agencies have chosen to interpret the language differently, according to the report.

2. The CDC has not funded research of gun violence prevention in 20 years. Since the addition of the Dickey Amendment, the agency has not funded any gun violence research, though it did create the National Violent Death Reporting System in 2002. This includes homicides and suicides that use guns. However, this is only in place in 32 states, according to the report.

3. NIH is funding two proposals that specifically address firearms. After President Barack Obama issued a statement calling for "the secretary of [HHS], through the director of the [CDC] and other scientific agencies within [HHS], [to] conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it," the NIH developed a call for proposals. It has funded nine, two of which address guns, according to the report.

4. Ms. Rubin suggests the CDC's comparatively small budget — $11.8 billion versus $32.3 billion at NIH — is what holds it back. The CDC has a much smaller budget and is under a higher level of control by Congress, which is why the agency has avoided the controversial research, according to the report.


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