Here's Why Doctors Can't Call Gun Violence a Public Health Issue

December 2nd 2015

Taylor Bell

Although mass shootings and gun violence continues to increase, as Americans watch a fatal mass shooting unfold Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, there hasn't been any research done to examine why these violent attacks continue to happen. One law is the culprit, the Dickey Amendment.

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The Dickey Amendment, which was set in place almost 20 years ago, was passed in 1996 with the help of former U.S. Rep Jay Dickey. The amendment prevented researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute of Health (NIH) from conducting any studies on what causes violence and what can be done to prevent it according to Take Part.

Doctors from Doctors for America came together in a press conference Wednesday morning, just hours before the shooting, and presented a petition with more than 2,000 signatures from doctors from each state to end the controversial law.

Before the mass shooting that occurred in San Bernardino Wednesday, the man who originally helped legalize the Dickey Amendment, Jay Dickey, told the Huffington Post that he regrets the decision and wished he had the proper research to start with before drafting such a restricting law.

But now others are trying to correct his mistake.

"Gun violence is among the most difficult public health challenges that we face as a country, but because of the deeply misguided ban on research, we know very little about it," said Rep. David Price, vice chair of the House of Representatives' Gun violence Prevention Task Force. "Regardless of whether we stand in the debate over gun violence, we should all be able to able that this debate should be informed by objective data and robust scientific research."

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After the shooting in Newton, Connecticut President Barack Obama signed an executive order to restore funds to gun violence studies but Congress has continued to block the president's attempts.

Barack Obama pauses during briefing about Charleston

In this year alone there have been more deaths from mass shootings than there have been days in the year, and no progress. According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, although there are many causes that may be responsible for gun violence, there is strong evidence that suggest mass shooters are often mentally ill and socially marginalized and that enhanced psychiatric examination could prevent particular crimes.

This is part of the reason, as well as the mass shootings over the past years, that have compelled these doctors to act.

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