New Year, New Opportunity to Do The Right Thing About Gun Violence

In light of the 5th anniversary of the 2011 Tucson shooting which killed six people and injured many more - including former US Congresswoman Gabby Giffords - we must continue to question the culture of gun violence that plagues our nation and confront the politically charged resistance to curb its devastating effects. Moreover, we find ourselves only six days into the new year with another such story on our hands, with early reports coming from the Fort Lauderdale shooting leaving another five innocent people dead from senseless violence. 

Critics of gun control love to talk in hypotheticals after acts of gun violence - always questioning whether or not new legislation would have had any impact on the outcome. As gun related deaths in the US continues to rise, we can no longer afford to allow gun lobbyists to have influence over legislative debate. Instead, we must let the data speak for itself, and that begins by abolishing the 1996 Dickey Amendment which prohibits the CDC collection of that very data itself.

The CDC has been allowed to research public health concerns ranging from medical diseases to food safety, and their data-driven campaigns from traffic safety to tobacco use have been some of the most successful public health achievements to date. However, under the Dickey Amendment, they are still not given funding for gun violence research, in a time when such research is all the more pertinent and needed. 

The CDC, and many in the STEM community, are prepared to combat the public health issue of gun violence and it is long past due that all members of our government are ready to do the same. If conservatives truly wish to have a reasonable debate about gun control, then it is imperative we allow research and science to trump money and emotion. 

With this in mind, it is time for our elected officials to put aside their political differences in favor of a more rational and data-driven approach to monitoring gun violence in the United States. No longer should lobbyist groups such as the NRA hold sway over politicians we elect to keep ourselves and our families safe from such violence. Despite the tragic start to 2017, as we begin a new year and new presidential administration, this year can be a defining moment in US gun policy. It is time for both Democrats and Republicans to show that scientifically based legislation can rise above partisan gridlock.