Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is leading an effort by 14 attorneys general to encourage Congress to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence as a public health issue.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

“Federal restrictions on CDC funding stifle important progress we have made to help mitigate the devastating effects of gun violence on families and communities in Massachusetts and across the country,” Healey said Tuesday at a White House meeting on gun violence. “With this critical tool at our fingertips, we are calling on Congress to take immediate action as millions of lives are affected by this public health crisis every year.”

Since 1996, Congress has included a provision in its annual appropriations bill that bans the CDC from using any money for any study “to advocate or promote gun control.”

Gun rights groups have supported the ban. They contend that characterizing guns as a public health issue is merely an effort to disguise moves to expand gun control.

The United States has more than 30,000 deaths a year because of gun violence, according to the CDC.

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that in many cases guns fall into the hands of people for whom they were never intended. In one week in April, The Times said, four toddlers fatally shot themselves. That same week a mother who was driving her car was killed when her 2-year-old apparently found a gun in the car.

In a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the attorneys general from Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington said: “Our offices or our state partners in law enforcement prosecute gun-related crimes, direct services to victims of violent crimes, and collaborate with community-based violence prevention programs. We strive to keep legal guns safe, illegal guns off the street, and sellers in compliance with the law. CDC-funded research on causes and prevention of gun-related injuries and death would enhance our ability to do that very work. We strongly believe that investigation and analysis by national experts will assist our offices to more effectively target our resources, advocacy, and enforcement.

It is not our intent to wade into the gun control debate. But as physicians and scientists, we are committed to the collection of information and the examination of data for the purposes of improving life for everyone.

We like what the Boston Globe said on the matter:

CDC research into seatbelt use and other risk factors helped cut the number of automobile deaths in the country by 19 percent from 1997 to 2013, without compromising anyone’s freedom to drive. That’s what big data, and rigorous analysis, can achieve. The use — and abuse — of firearms could so easily be the subject of a similar campaign.

Or, to put it in terms we all know, knowledge is power.


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