U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is advocating allowing health studies on gun violence using federal funds. The Centers for Disease Control has been blocked from using any of its appropriations for research on gun violence since 1996, thanks to a bill rider called the Dickey Amendment. The provision states no CDC funds “may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The language has been included in CDC appropriations bills ever since. Durbin and 17 other Democratic U.S. Senators want to schedule a hearing on removing the restriction, arguing the topic deserves to be analyzed like other causes of death. “We know we have traffic accidents that lead to injuries and death, so we try to design cars safer,” Durbin said. “We try to figure out ways to keep drunk drivers off the road. We’re trying take anybody’s car away, we’re just saying let’s find ways to do this in a safe fashion.”
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Durbin is also co-sponsoring legislation which would authorize $10 million worth of gun violence studies per year, should the ban be lifted. Finding support for the proposal will be tough, Durbin says, though he believes his side of the argument has a powerfull ally: the man who originally introduced the rider, former U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.). “He put it in 20 years ago, it’s been repeated year after year after year, has now publicly come out and said ‘I made a big mistake,’” Durbin said. The head of the Illinois State Rifle Association, Richard Pearson, is opposed to Durbin’s idea, as he feels the research from CDC would be biased and believes gun violence studies shouldn’t be supported by federal funds. “If they want to research something, let them research cancer,” Pearson said.