NEW HAVEN, CT – On the third floor of police headquarters Monday morning, detectives put their heads together inside the intelligence unit’s room to try to track down perpetrators of gun violence.
Steps away in the third-floor common area, New Haven’s U.S. Congresswoman was calling for federal research into how gun violence occurs in the first place.
The Congresswoman, Rosa DeLauro, held a press conference along with public-health workers to make the case that the country can save many lives by funding the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention to study how children or veterans or domestic-violence victims ended up shot — the way that federal research helped craft polices that saved countless lives by preventing car crashes.
They declared gun violence a “public health emergency” that in Connecticut’s three largest cities alone claimed 40 lives last year and sent 250 people to the hospital with injuries. Unlike, say, rabies, hepatitis, peptic ulcers, or Parkinson’s Disease, gun violence gets no federal research dollars.
“We should not be afraid of research. I stand here because of biomedical research,” declared DeLauro, who is a cancer survivor.
DeLauro vowed to add funding for gun violence research as the new chair of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that oversees the CDC budget. She faces opposition from NRA supporters who view research funding as a vehicle for gun control advocates to take away guns. If DeLauro, a Democrat, succeeds with adding the money in the Democratic-controlled House, her party would still need to negotiate the line item with the Republican-backed Senate.
Congress has not funded gun violence research since the 1996 passage of the Dickey amendment, which states that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” A 2018 vote in Congress clarified that that amendment does not ban research into gun violence itself. (And the late Sen. Jay Dickey himself publicly embraced such research before his death.)
“This is about research,” not banning guns, DeLauro stated at Monday morning’s press conference. “We research every other public health emergency in the nation.”
Pediatric emergency doc Kirsten Bechtel (pictured with DeLauro) suggested some “significant ” research gaps that if filled would help save victims like those whose lives she tries to save in Yale New Haven Hospital’s emergency room: How shootings happen in the first place; how firearms are stored; how they could be prevented. She noted that similar research into causes of car crashes led to seat belt laws, child-seat rules, air bags, and other measures that have saved lives.
In 2014, firearm-related deaths in the U.S. outnumbered car-crash deaths for the first time; yet only one-third of households have access to a gun, compared to 90 percent of households with a car, Bechtel said. She said 18 children get shot each day in the U.S., four of them to death.
University of New Haven public-health prof Karl E. Minges (pictured) called gun deaths “100 percent preventable” if experts can learn more about basics about how to prevent suicides, predict domestic violence, what kinds of firearms are in households and how they’re being stored.
Statewide Project Longevity Coordinator Brent Peterkin called for research money to tackle PTSD— as in “present,” not just post, traumatic stress disorder. He spoke of how young people, especially in black and brown communities, are dealing daily with the psychological effects of gun violence. He spoke of working with people affected by last year’s shooting death of 12-year-old Clifton Howell in Bridgeport, and of his own experience being targeted by gun violence at 13. He’d like to see the CDC study those psychological effects so society can figure out the “kind of care” such young people “need to lead a productive life.”