April 14, 2016 – A bipartisan group of former U.S. Surgeons General are urging Congress to renew investments in federal research into the causes and costs of gun violence, and strategies to reduce it. The letters, which come on the heels of National Public Health week, are signed by four Surgeons General who have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, including:
15th U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, M.D.
16th U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D.
17th U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS
18th U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A.
“As former Surgeons General, we know that saving Americans’ lives requires that we fully understand the scope and causes of gun violence,” write former Surgeons General Benjamin, Elders and Satcher in their letter sent today to congressional leadership. “It is only through research that we can begin to address this menace to our nation’s public health. We urge you to fund CDC research into gun violence to better the health and safety of all Americans.”
Former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona also released a letter calling on Congress to fund gun violence research. Read the full letter here.
In addition, former Republican Congressman Jay Dickey, the author of the 1996 “Dickey” amendment, which limited the CDC’s authority to conduct gun violence prevention research, and Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control who left the CDC due to his commitment to gun violence prevention research, have renewed their call for Congress to invest in federal gun violence research.
“Firearm violence is a major health and safety problem in the United States, and far too little is known about the solutions that might be available. We believe that increasing funding for firearm violence prevention research would help stimulate technological innovations and generate scientific evidence that will let us both save lives and protect gun rights,” said Congressman Dickey and Dr. Rosenberg. “This is not an academic exercise and we will need to better understand each other, collaborate, and reach consensus on how to really get this done.”
Read Congressman Dickey and Dr. Rosenberg’s full statement here.
“Our national gun violence crisis is now a full-blown public health crisis, and it demands a data-driven approach to addressing it. That’s why it is essential that we begin to understand the full scope of the problem of gun violence in our country through federal research,” said Peter Ambler, 501(c)(4) Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions. “Now is the time for Congress to listen to our nation’s leading medical experts, and address our growing gun violence epidemic.”
Earlier today, Americans for Responsible Solutions hosted a panel discussion with medical and public health experts at the National Press Club that focused on the need for direct federal investment into gun violence research.
The letter sent to congressional leaders today by former Surgeons General Benjamin, Elders and Satcher is here and follows below:
April 14, 2016
Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, and Members of the United States Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives,
We write to you today at the conclusion of National Public Health Week, an occasion dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of all Americans. It is in this spirit that we urge Congress to invest in federal research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into gun violence, one of our nation’s leading public health challenges and one that impacts all of our communities.
As you know, gun violence takes the lives of 33,000 Americans each year and for every person killed, two more are injured. Whether gun violence is in the form of a domestic violence homicide, suicide, unintentional shooting, gang-related killing, or mass shooting, the tragedy affects the entire community. In 2010 alone, gun violence cost the United States $174 billion. Gun violence is a public health crisis that demands a national public health response.
Due to a restrictive budget amendment put into place by Congress, since 1996 federal investments into gun violence research have effectively been frozen. Although President Obama lifted the ban on such research in 2012, Congress has yet to dedicate the necessary resources to study the causes and costs of firearms violence and related injuries.
The CDC has made life-saving progress in tackling other public health challenges- identifying risk factors and disseminating prevention policies for motor vehicle crashes, which caused automobile deaths to fall from over 41,000 in 1997 to just over 30,000 in 2013. Gun deaths, on the other hand, outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 21 states and the District of Columbia in 2014 alone.
As former Surgeons General, we know that saving Americans’ lives requires that we fully understand the scope and causes of gun violence. The CDC is the nation’s premier institution of public health and can make significant strides by conducting evidence-based, data-driven research into gun violence. It is only through research that we can begin to address this menace to our nation’s public health. We urge you to fund CDC research into gun violence to better the health and safety of all Americans.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.
Dr. Regina Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General, 2009 – 2003
Dr. Joycelyn Elders, U.S. Surgeon General, 1993 – 1994
Dr. David Satcher, U.S. Surgeon General, 1998 – 2002
 Nat’l Ctr. for Injury Prevention & Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-Based Injury Statistics Query & Reporting System (WISQARS), Injury Mortality Reports, 1999-2010, for National, Regional, and States (Dec. 2012), http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/dataRestriction_inj.html.
 Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Gun Violence Statistics. November 18 2012. http://smartgunlaws.org/category/gun-studies-statistics/gun-violence-statistics/.
 Children’s Safety Network Economics and Data Analysis Resource Center at Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, The Cost of Firearm Violence. TR Miller, data analyst. From American Association of Public Health, Gun Violence Prevention.
 National Safety Council. Accident facts, 1998 edition. Itasca, Illinois: National Safety Council, 1998. From Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention & Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Achievements in Public Health, 1990-1999 Motor-Vehicle Safety: A 20th Century Public Health Accomplishment.” http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4818a1.htm
 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Encyclopedia, General. http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx.
 Violence Policy Center, “Gun Deaths Compared to Motor Vehicle Deaths.” 2015. http://www.vpc.org/regulating-the-gun-industry/gun-deaths-compared-to-motor-vehicle-deaths/