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Our View: What is wrong with studying mass shootings?




Imagine there was a disease that cost the lives of 35,000 Americans each year. It's hard to imagine, of course. Aside from the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, which killed an astonishing 500,000 Americans in a 10-month period, there has been no public health crisis that has caused so many deaths in our country. 


Between 2012 and 2016, an average of 35,000 Americans were killed each year by guns, either by homicide, suicide or accidents, according to the Center for Disease Control. 


Those raw numbers constitute virtually all of the research available from the government. Since 1996, the CDC has been prohibited by Congress from any scientific research into gun violence in the U.S. 


That year, Congress passed The Dickey Amendment, which said that no CDC funds could be used to advocate or promote gun control. The message was clear: Pursue research of hot-button questions about guns and you'll face of the wrath of a Congress which has no appetite for anything that might threaten existing guns laws. 


In 2014, Congress appropriated $1.8 billion for CDC research into the Ebola epidemic. In 2016, $1.1 billion was provided to the CDC for Zika virus research. 


And yet, not a single dollar has been devoted to gun violence research for more than 20 years. 


Left untreated, epidemics continue, claiming more and more victims. 


We've heard experts, talking heads and our neighbors offer up their opinions as to the cause of the escalating number of mass shootings: mental health, bullying, easy access to guns. 


The fact is we have no scientific data to support any of these claims. 


To address a problem, we have to identify it and its causes first. 


There are few private foundations who could properly fund and conduct research into the causes of these mass shootings, which are uniquely an American phenomenon. Federal funds would be the most effective way to fund the studies needed to identify the causes of the problem. 


No matter your views on guns or gun control, scientific research is a common sense approach to a public health crisis that continues to grow. School shootings in Florida and Texas this spring can no longer be viewed as outliers. Sadly, they are statistically relevant symptoms of our nation's great unstudied -- and therefore untreated -- disease. 


In this battle, no idea from either side of the debate should be dismissed out of hand. 


Until we provide the funding to research the causes of mass shootings, our efforts to address the biggest public health crisis in America today has yet to really get started. 


About the only thing we have done to this point is count the bodies. 


That is unacceptable.



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