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Not Enough Funding for Research


Not Enough Funding for Research

What is the problem?

Though more than 100,000 people are shot and killed or wounded in the US every year, Congress restricted research on the causes and impacts of gun violence for a significant period. Research on gun violence could lead to the development of life-saving scientific and policy solutions and is vital for assessing existing solutions over time.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began studying gun violence in the early 1990s, the gun lobby successfully persuaded Congress to block its funding. Following the passage of a Congressional budget restriction, known as the Dickey Amendment, in 1996, the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) severely underfunded gun violence research. After fierce advocacy by Everytown and others, in 2019, for the first time in decades, Congress passed a funding bill that appropriated $25 million for gun violence research to be split between the CDC and NIH.1Jessie Hellmann “Congress Reaches Deal to Fund Gun Violence Research for First Time in Decades,” The Hill, December 16, 2019, 

Although Congress has maintained this investment for several years,2National Institutes of Health, “RePORT: Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC),” March 31, 2023,; Department of Health and Human Services, “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fiscal Year 2024 Justification of Estimates for Appropriation Committees,“ 2023, dollars for future years are already under threat. In 2023, House Republicans proposed cutting gun violence research funding completely.3Matt Laslo, “The CDC’s Gun Violence Research Is in Danger,” Wired, November 30, 2023, These efforts illustrate that gun violence continues to be politically volatile and advocacy is needed to ensure consistent research funding.

Why is it an issue?

America must invest in gun violence research.

Even though gun violence is the leading cause of death among children and teens and ranks among the top 10 leading causes of death among all ages,1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death, Injury Mechanism & All Other Leading Causes. Data from 2021. Children and teens defined as ages 1 to 19. gun violence prevention received only $46 per life lost in federal research funding from 2009 to 2018.2Everytown Research analysis of federal funding data from FedREPORTER and firearm mortality data from CDC WONDER for the years 2009 to 2018. In comparison, at the same time, nearly four times that amount was dedicated to research on motor vehicle accidents, which kills roughly the same number of people.3Everytown Research analysis of federal funding data from FedREPORTER and mortality data from CDC WONDER for the years 2009 to 2018. Motor vehicle accidents received approximately $162 per life lost between 2009 and 2018. This figure is an approximation and is derived from a search of FedREPORTER for projects with “motor vehicle” or “traffic accident” listed among the project terms. Also note that motor vehicle accident research may have received funding from other agencies included in FedREPORTER that were not reported here. 

Government investments in research on motor vehicle accidents led to safety innovations like requiring seat belts and child seats, equipping highways with guardrails, and much more. These measures have significantly contributed to reducing motor vehicle deaths. Similar investments are needed to reduce gun violence.

Recent funding increases for gun violence research are a welcome change but remain far below the billions of dollars that gun violence costs taxpayers every year. Adequate and sustained government investment in research is necessary to guide policymaking and focus efforts on the places and groups most impacted. Federal and state governments can do more to support gun violence research and data collection.

By the numbers

You might be wondering…

  1. 1 Why isn’t the $25 million Congress appropriated to gun violence research in 2019 enough?