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March 03, 2021

Chairwoman Johnson Introduces Gun Violence Research Legislation

(Washington, DC) – Today, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced the National Gun Violence Research Act. This legislation authorizes a national gun violence research program overseen by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and carried out by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice. The national research program would examine the nature, causes, consequences, and prevention of violence and unintended injury and death relating to gun ownership, use, and trafficking of firearms.

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's (D-TX) floor statement for the record is below.

Madam Speaker, today I am introducing the National Gun Violence Research Act. 

As Chairwoman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology I am committed to elevating the voice of science in the consequential deliberations taking place in this body. In our efforts to develop fair, effective, and sustainable policy solutions to the challenges facing the American people, we must ensure we are drawing from a strong base of evidence. My fellow Committee Members and I are dedicated to ensuring that the U.S. scientific enterprise is equipped with the resources it needs to derive that evidence. As the COVID-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated, there are enormous benefits to having a thriving research ecosystem in place that is poised to respond when called upon.

Gun violence is a threat to our national welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report reviewing the latest gun mortality data last month entitled A Public Health Crisis Decades in the Making. And the numbers are stark. For the past three years in a row, nearly 40,000 people were killed by guns in the United States. The vast majority of these deaths, 86 percent, were males. Tragically, one in ten were children and teens. Put another way, guns were the leading cause of deaths for Americans age 1 to 24. After years of slow, but steady decline, gun homicides are on the rise, accounting for one third of gun deaths in 2019. Black men are more than 20 times as likely as White men to be victims of firearm homicide. The majority of firearm deaths are suicides. The rate of suicide fatalities has steadily increased over the past decade, with white men more than twice as likely to die by firearm suicide than non-white men.

And the stressors associated with the COVID-19 crisis have not helped. Early research suggests that the rate of gun violence has risen dramatically during the pandemic, with factors such as increased unemployment, increased alcohol consumption, and increased firearm purchases potentially playing a role.

The fact is that gun violence is rampant in our society and lives will continue to be lost unless we act decisively to stem this tide. I commend my colleagues in the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force for their leadership in advancing the policy discussions surrounding this issue. I was thrilled to see the appropriations committees approve $25 million for the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support gun violence research, finally putting an end to the de facto ban on federal funding for this important area of study.

We are heading in the right direction, but there is much more to be done. We must take a bold, comprehensive approach to grow the field of gun violence research. We need to attract more students to careers in gun violence research and support interdisciplinary collaboration to connect experts in public health with those in criminology and the social and behavioral sciences. We need to support the translation of research into effective policy interventions. We need better coordination among key agencies like the CDC, NIH, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Justice. 

The National Gun Violence Research Act takes a whole-of-government approach to addressing the paucity of federal funding for research on gun violence by directing the President to establish a six-year National Gun Violence Research Program. To carry out the program, funding is authorized for the National Science Foundation ($15 M), the National Institute of Standards and Technology ($1 M), the Department of Health and Human Services ($25 M), and the Department of Justice ($3 M) to conduct or support gun violence research. In addition to awarding individual research grants, the National Science Foundation is directed to establish a much-needed national center for violence research to encourage multidisciplinary collaboration and train the next generation of gun violence researchers. Research enabled by this legislation will improve our understanding of gun violence so we can advance effective solutions and save lives.