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Letter: End Limits on Gun Research 

To the Editor:

With nearly 30,000 Americans dying from firearms a year, continued mass shootings and many frightening statistics associated with gun use, why is it that gun violence is not considered a major public health issue?

In a recent Journal of the American Medical Association article entitled “Silencing the Science on Gun Research,” authors Arthur L. Kellerman, M.D., and Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., point out that pro-gun members of Congress in 1996-7 eliminated funding for firearm injury prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, nearly 427,000 Americans have died from gun shots. The language against firearm research stated: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the CDC may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” Further, in 2011 Congress extended the restrictive language it had previously applied to the CDC to all Department of Health and Human Services agencies, including the National Institutes of Health.

Injury prevention research has, over the years, contributed to effective reduction of injuries and deaths from motor vehicle accidents, fires, drowning and poisonings from the environment. Kellermann and Rivara go on to say: “This progress was achieved without banning automobiles, swimming pools or matches. Instead, it came about from translating research findings into effective interventions.”

It is abundantly clear that our nation is severely suffering from gun violence, and action must be taken. Our legislators need to change laws that currently silence the science of gun violence research and allow for the CDC and the NIH to collect data that can lead to firearm injury prevention. One would expect responsible gun owners and the general public to support such action.

Public health measures were effective in reducing deaths from vehicle accidents, drowning, fires, and poison — and who can forget the impact public health policy and promotion had on changing attitudes toward tobacco use? Let us do the same for guns!

Richard K. Brooks, M.D.

Quechee