- The spending bill set to be released by congressional leaders on Wednesday is expected to include a tweak to a 22-year old provision that prevents the government from studying gun violence.
- The ban has been a hot topic since the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February.
The omnibus spending package set to be released by congressional leaders on Wednesday is expected to significantly change a decades-old ban on the federal government’s ability to study gun violence.
As part of the bill, there will be guidance to clarify the interpretation of what is known as the Dickey amendment, a small provision that was attached to an omnibus bill in 1996. It prevents the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention from studying the health implications of gun violence and says “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
The amendment effectively stopped the CDC from continuing to examine the health outcomes from gun ownership and violence. Revising the provision became a key goal of gun-control advocates amid a spate of mass shootings in recent years, but it has been consistently opposed by the National Rifle Associations and many lawmakers.
The clarity would be similar to a suggestion offered by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during congressional testimony in February. Azar told lawmakers that he does not believe that the Dickey amendment expressly prohibits CDC research on guns, but rather restricts the agency from advocating for advocate for certain gun policies.
“My understanding is that the rider does not in any way impede our ability to conduct our research mission,” Azar said.
The expected fix comes just more than a month after the mass shooting at a high-school in Parkland, Florida, which brought renewed attention to the issue.
In addition to the Dickey amendment reversal, the omnibus bill will also contain a few other gun-related items:
- A measure from Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican, to fix gaps in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. While the move would not institute universal background checks, it would compel local and state agencies to be more diligent in reporting to the federal system.
- Funding similar to a House-passed bill that increases resources for schools to educate students and teachers on how to respond to gun violence. The measure would also provide grants to schools to improve security measures.
Democrats, particularly Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, advocated for further gun-control measures as part of the bill. Eventually, the two sides settled on the Dickey amendment revision.