The pending fiscal year 2018 spending bill will not address a perceived ban on the federal government conducting research into gun violence, according to congressional aides.
Whether any other gun control measures are added to the spending bill, expected to be released Monday evening, remains an open question. Aides said no final decision has been made yet whether to include Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn’s legislation related to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Advocates have been calling for Congress to act on guns in the aftermath of a high school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead. Much of the recent advocacy efforts have been led by students, including a national protest last week on the issue.
The so-called “Dickey Amendment,” named for the measure’s original sponsor former Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark., has been a top target for Democrats since it was first included in an omnibus bill over a decade ago. Despite the heightened pressure, that measure will not be reversed in the pending fiscal year 2018 spending bill, Democratic and Republican aides said.
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The original text of the amendment stated no funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” While the CDC has often interpreted that to mean no money can be spent to research gun violence, since that research could then be used for advocacy efforts, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has signaled that is not accurate.
“We’re in the science business and the evidence-generating business,” he recently told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “So I will have our agencies certainly be working in this field as they do across the broad spectrum of disease control and prevention.”
A spokeswoman later said, “the department is in no way prohibited from the collection, analysis or reporting of public health data related to firearm violence.”