Chairwoman DeLauro Statement at Hearing Addressing the Public Health Emergency of Gun Violence
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing "Addressing the Public Health Emergency of Gun Violence":
The Subcommittee will come to order.
Good morning. I would like to welcome everyone to the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee’s hearing to address the public health emergency of gun violence.
Let me thank our distinguished panelists for being here:
- Dr. Andrew Morral (pronounced “morale”) of the RAND Corporation;
- Dr. Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins;
- Dr. Ronald Stewart of the American College of Surgeons;
- Dr. John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center
I will introduce them before their remarks.
Gun violence is a public health emergency.
Since 1968, more Americans have died by gun violence than in every American war combined. In 2017 alone, guns killed nearly 40,000 Americans. That same year, opioid overdoses killed 47,000 Americans. We have dedicated immense public dollars, especially in this subcommittee, to addressing and examining one, but not the other.
It is time we support public research of gun violence too. We did until the Dickey Amendment in the 1990s. It did not ban the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention from researching. However, it had a chilling result, severely discouraging it.
Congressman Jay Dickey came to regret his actions, in this regard. Later in his life, he worked closely with Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the former director of the CDC’s Center for Injury Prevention and Control, with whom he clashed in the 1990s. They subsequently worked together to address gun violence.
Congressman Dickey passed away in 2017. But as his ex-wife, Betty Dickey, and friend Dr. Rosenberg said in their statement to the committee today, quote, “Jay Dickey evolved his thinking as a former Congressman, member of this subcommittee, and sponsor of the Dickey amendment, to ardently believe that research can make a difference.”
And also, quote, “…if Jay were alive, he would want to appear as a witness at this hearing to tell you in his own words that Congress should appropriate funding for this important research that has the potential to save lives and reduce disability.”
I ask unanimous consent to insert the full statement into the record.
Jay Dickey came to believe that research can make a difference. Certainly, this Congress must as well.
We know the CDC can do this research. As HHS Secretary Alex Azar said last year, quote, “My understanding is that the rider does not in any way impede our ability to conduct our research mission. We’re in the science business and the evidence-generating business, and so I will have our agency certainly working in this field, as they do across the broad spectrum of disease control and prevent.”
CDC Director Robert Redfield agrees. Last year, he said, quote, “We don’t have any restrictions to do the research. We just need a funding mechanism…We’re poised to research in this area if Congress chooses to give us additional funding.”
There is so much more we need to know. As our witnesses will attest, the 20-year gap in CDC research has left a vast void in our understanding of how to prevent gun violence.
CDC is the nation’s public health agency. It must be involved.
For example, we need to increase research into interventions to reduce suicide by firearm. Suicides by firearms accounted for nearly 24,000 deaths in 2017 and firearm suicide rates have risen steadily since 2006. We need to be looking into this and comprehensively.
Earlier this week, President Trump announced an Executive Order, a Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide. It establishes a task force that includes VA, Defense, HHS, and Homeland Security.
This Committee has jurisdiction over CDC. It must be involved. And also, we have jurisdiction over research dollars and where the research dollars go.
We need to better understand the correlation between domestic violence and gun violence. The initial evidence is alarming and it appears to relate to incidents of stalking as well. As one of our witnesses notes in his written testimony, more than half of intimate partner homicides involve the use of firearms.
And, we need to help those Americans who choose to own guns do so in a way that helps them keep their family safe. Research has indicated that safe storage is effective in reducing the number of children harmed by guns. We could be examining other commonsense measures to do so.
Those are just a few examples. But there are so many areas we need to be examining.
And, we need public dollars to do so.
Let me quote from one of our witnesses, Andrew Morral, who said about this, quote, “Many critical questions require national data collection over many years, a concerted research program of basic and descriptive research on gun use and violence, and applied and policy research. Resources for a research program of this magnitude would almost certainly require a long-term commitment of support by the federal government.”
Pre-Dickey, we had only $2.6 million for CDC research. Given the magnitude of this public health emergency, the federal research agenda must be much bigger and it cannot rely on private money.
We need the CDC to be looking into this and the National Institutes of Health. NIH had a 3-year initiative from 2014 to 2016 looking into the epidemic of gun violence. They funded 14 projects. But, they choose to not extend it. We will direct the NIH needs to restore that initiative.
Because, we need public research. To make strides with regards to Alzheimer’s or cancer, what we do is dedicate public dollars to research. We do it for opioid addiction. There are lot of different entities that are looking into. But public dollars are critical.
Sepsis killed about as many people as gun violence, according to a review in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medicine Association of CDC mortality statistics. Yet, despite similar rates of mortality, sepsis received 150 times the research funding than gun violence.
We need to be providing public dollars for gun violence research. Because as Richard Berk, a professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania put it, quote, there is “no upside to ignorance.”
So, to close, let me say, this is about the burden and the benefits. The burden of gun violence in our communities and its public health implications. And, the benefits of the research that we can be gathering to mitigate it.
This is a public health emergency and it demands research.
Now, let me turn it over to my good friend from Oklahoma, the Ranking Member, Mr. Cole, for any opening remarks he cares to make.