For years, Congress has blocked funding for research into the impacts of guns on public health. On Wednesday morning, twenty Senate Democrats demanded a necessary first step to upset that status quo, by asking the Government Accountability Office to audit what health programs exist to make guns safer.
“With more than 300 million guns in American homes, we write to request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a study to assess the efficacy of public health and safety programs designed to impact gun safety, including the storage and security of guns in households throughout our country,” they wrote in a letter to Gene Dorado, Comptroller General of the United States.
The senators note that other federal public health campaigns, such as those to reduce drunk driving and smoking, have been hugely effective. But for nearly 20 years, Congress has pushed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to steer clear of firearms violence research. “I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease,” said former House Speaker John Boehner this summer, after the House Appropriations Committee voted to block funding on gun research to the CDC.
“Prevention of gun deaths and injuries should be an essential component of the federal government’s commitment to public heath and safety along with other efforts such as background checks on gun purchases and closing other gun loopholes,” the senators wrote.
A Mother Jones investigation, inspired by the lack of research on the matter, found that gun violence costs Americans a whopping $229 billion each year. In 2013, Mother Jones found that at least 194 children were shot to death in the year following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A Washington Post investigation earlier this year found that Americans are getting shot by toddlers on a weekly basis.
The senators’ request was lauded by gun control advocacy groups. “The American people have had enough of gun violence and this is an important step,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Read the full letter below:
Watch part of our investigation into the costs of gun violence here:
This post has been updated to include more gun crime statistics.