Congress decided Monday to fund federal gun violence research for the first time in more than 20 years, marking a historic moment in the country’s gun safety movement.
The $25 million in funding is found in a $1.3 trillion federal spending deal that congressional negotiators have finalized and are expected to pass later this week before Friday’s government shutdown deadline. The deal allocates $12.5 million each for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to study gun violence in the United States and evidence-based prevention and solutions.
“Gun violence is a public health emergency. After years of obstruction from Republicans and the [National Rifle Association] … I secured a historic $25 million investment for gun violence prevention research,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “With this investment, the best public health researchers in the country will be put to work to identify ways to reduce injury and death due to firearms.”
Congress stopped funding research on gun violence in 1996 after passing an amendment that blocked agencies like the CDC from using federal funds to advocate for gun control. The so-called Dickey Amendment, named after its author, former Sen. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), does not explicitly prevent federal agencies from studying gun violence, though that was its interpretation for years.
In last year’s spending agreement, Democrats managed to clarify in future spending bills that the amendment does not actually stop agencies from studying gun violence. But the CDC said it required allocated funding from lawmakers in order to actually study the issue.
Democrats initially tried to get $50 million in funding for gun violence research, with the House approving that amount in June. Though negotiations resulted in only half that amount, Democrats and gun safety advocates still consider the funding a win.
“For far too long, the United States Congress put the political agenda of the gun lobby over our nation’s public health and safety. But today, with outraged Americans demanding solutions to gun violence and a new gun safety majority elected to the House of Representatives, change is happening,” said former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), a gun violence survivor and the co-founder of the gun violence prevention organization named after her.
“We celebrate this momentous step, and we will use it to power us forward as we continue our fight to save lives,” Giffords added.
The funding allocation comes just days after the seventh anniversary of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which killed 20 children and six adults. Democrats have repeatedly tried to pass gun control legislation as the country continued to experience mass shooting after mass shooting, but Republicans have blocked all efforts to enact gun safety measures.
The Democratic-controlled House passed a bill earlier this year that would require universal background checks in the U.S., but it has not been brought to a vote in the GOP-controlled Senate and has been opposed by President Donald Trump.
“While we wish the Senate had agreed to fully fund gun violence research, we are grateful to our House allies … for continuing to fight for it,” tweeted Shannon Watts, a mother of five who founded the gun safety advocacy organization Moms Demand Action in response to the Sandy Hook massacre.
Many other lawmakers, activists and organizations spoke out on Twitter in response to the new gun violence research funding: