How many nonfatal shootings are there in the United States each year?
How many of those nonfatal shootings result in serious injuries?
How many guns are owned by the American public?
The answer for all three is the same: We don’t really know.
That’s because the United States has failed to properly fund research and data collection around gun violence, Jeremy Travis, Arnold Ventures executive vice president of criminal justice, explained to Fareed Zakaria this week in a CNN special — “Global Lessons on Guns.” This gap in the evidence has left policymakers without the basic information necessary to craft laws that can help prevent gun violence.
The problem stems from something called the Dickey Amendment, which had been interpreted since 1996 as a prohibition on federal research into gun policy.
“So from 1996 until 2017 that — the Dickey amendment — was interpreted as being a provision against research by the federal government on gun violence through the CDC,” Travis said. “And this is what we refer to as the two-decade evidence desert. Here we were basically thwarted as a country from trying to understand what would be effective at saving lives.”
But tragic mass shootings have spurred new federal investment in research, and Congress is finally starting to fill the evidence gap.
“The students of Parkland, much to their credit, started rallying and organizing with an agenda. And on their agenda was to restore federal funding for research at CDC,” Travis said. “But this became a rallying cry and President Trump, much to his credit, issued an interpretation by his secretary of HHS that that amendment did not preclude research.”