The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is again a focus of the battle over firearms, as Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath and other Democrats are trying to restore funding for the agency to study gun violence.
The Atlanta-based CDC stopped researching causes and results of such violence in 1993 when Republican lawmakers reacted to study saying homes with guns were five times more likely than homes without guns to be the scene of suicides and almost three times more likely to be the scene of homicides.
Believing the study was biased, a Republican-controlled congress passed the Dickey Amendment, which said federal funds cannot be used to advocate or promote gun control, and it cut CDC funding, which had a chilling effect on further studies.
Now, McBath (D-Marietta) and her Democratic allies in Congress have requested $50 million in the next federal budget for the CDC and National Institute of Health to once again take up its studies. The proposal will have to make it through the Republican-controlled Senate. And it will, no doubt, be a hotly debated issue among McBath and the Republican challengers she will face as election season begins gearing up.
Democrats are no longer shying away from campaigning on gun control, even in the conservative South. McBath, whose 6th District spreads from Marietta north past Alpharetta, lost a son to a shooting and was well known before her election as an advocate for gun control.
She unseated Republican Karen Handel last year. She recently sponsored legislation, H.B. 3076, known as a “red flag” bill. It would allow friends or family to petition a judge to have a person’s guns temporarily confiscated if there is evidence the person may harm himself or others.
Reestablishing research is something that has to happen, she said before a Thursday visit to the CDC with colleague Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat.
“Solid research on the issue of gun deaths and injuries has been thwarted at the CDC since that 1993 study found having guns in houses was linked to increases in likelihood of deaths and injuries,” she said.
She and Thompson are hopeful the $50 million will stay in the budget to study the implications of “the extremely dangerous gun culture we are in right now,” she said.
A counterweight to McBath is Georgia’s Rep. Doug Collins, whose 9th Congressional District lies northeast of McBath’s. He is the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of gun laws. He’s argued strongly against McBath’s H.B. 3076 and other Democratic legislation, such a passed bill that would extend the time a person could wait for a background check before buying guns. The Senate has not taken it up.
Collins called those bills ineffective on their face — they would have done nothing to prevent shootings like the Columbine and Parkland school shootings, he said.
“Many of those guns were purchased legally,” he said.
What would have made a difference is law enforcement acted on tips that the perpetrators might be dangerous before the shootings took place, he said.
To that end, he introduced his own legislation, H.R. 1339, that would set up a law enforcement center where tips and information can be shared, like the U.S. has done for terrorism. The legislation also would fund neighborhood safety programs and mandate stiffer sentences for burglaries of licensed dealers.
Like most gun legislation promoted by the political minority in the chamber, it has not passed.