Intended for healthcare professionals


Unsafe and understudied: the US gun problem

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 10 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i578
  1. Margaret A Winker, secretary1,
  2. Kamran Abbasi, international editor2,
  3. Frederick P Rivara, professor of paediatrics3
  1. 1World Association of Medical Editors, Kirkland, WA, USA
  2. 2The BMJ, London, UK
  3. 3Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, Seattle, USA
  1. Correspondence to: Margaret A Winker margaretwinker{at}

Overturn the funding freeze so we can restart a research effort barred by Congress in 1997

In recent weeks, the firearms controversy has again lit up the media in the United States, with clarification that anyone engaged in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks.1 Although this clarification is a step in the right direction, we may never know its effects because of the continuing ban on federal funding of research into gun violence.

This ban and the subsequent stripping of research funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was initiated after a study (coauthored by one of us) reported in 1993 that homes with guns were more likely to have a homicide by a family member or intimate partner than homes without guns.2 Congress, responding to pressure from the National Rifle Association (NRA), added the Dickey amendment to the Omnibus spending bill for 1997, which stated that “none of the funds … at the [CDC] may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”3 In 2011, Republicans in Congress added similar language to 2012 funding appropriations for the National Institutes of Health. This language has had a chilling effect on gun violence research to this day, despite pleas from many people, including Jay Dickey himself, to reverse Congress’s …

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