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Congress Takes Gun Violence Crisis Seriously with Continued Support for Gun Research Alongside Community-Based Violence Reduction

Omnibus package includes financial commitment to research, data, and evidence-based approaches to reduce gun violence

Washington, D.C. Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization led by Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, applauded the funding of efforts to fight gun violence in the omnibus agreement to fund the government through Fiscal Year 2021. The legislation includes a total of $25 million for gun violence research, allocating $12.5 million to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies portion of the packages includes increased funding for community-based violence reduction strategies, including $14 million for Community-Based Violence Prevention, $22 million for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, and $20 million for Project Safe Neighborhoods. These evidence based strategies have proven critical to reducing the number of shootings in cities where they are established, as explained in Giffords Law Center’s recent report, America at a Crossroads: Reimagining Federal Funding to End Community Violence. The bill’s accompanying explanatory language specifically states funding should be used to support initiatives like group violence intervention, street outreach, and hospital-based violence intervention that are proven to break cycles of violence.

Nico Bocour, Giffords Government Affairs Director: 

“Communities have faced overwhelming strain this year battling a novel viral pandemic and a familiar epidemic of gun violence. Solving this crisis requires a commitment to science, data, and evidence—and to justice. This legislation recognizes that.

“The bill builds on the landmark decision last year to restart federal research into gun violence so we can truly understand the problem we’re trying to solve. It also provides critical funding to support community-based violence intervention programs that are doing the work on the ground truly making a difference in reducing shootings in America’s most impacted places. As we head into a new year led by a new president, I’m optimistic that this commitment to saving lives will continue.”  

Gun Violence Research Breaks Through 

The $25 million appropriated by Congress in its Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill was the first federal funding dedicated to gun violence research since 1996. Prior to the start of the 116th Congress, Giffords launched a partnership with leading medical and public health groups to advocate for research funding at the CDC and the NIH to study gun violence, gun deaths, and gun injury in order to better improve public health and safety. In 2019, the coalition sent multiple letters to Congressional leadership calling for this investment, noting that over the past several decades scientific and medical research has led to policies that have saved countless lives related to automobiles, public sanitation, and cancer. The groups also joined with local partners and elected officials to host rallies for research funding in Denver, Orlando, and New Orleans, which reinforced that communities across the country supported the ability for top federal researchers to study this crisis.

Previously, Giffords brought together national leaders to draw attention to the urgent need for lawmakers to act. In 2016, Giffords organized the last four Surgeons General to call on Congress to properly fund this public health research.

A Commitment to Addressing Community Violence 

While more information is required across the board to properly address gun violence, the data is clear that community gun violence disproportionately impacts communities of color. For example, Black men constitute just 6% of the US population and account for more than 50% of all gun homicides each year. A report by the Giffords Law Center,In Pursuit of Peace: Building Police-Community Trust to Break the Cycle of Violence, examines how community trust, policing, and gun violence intersect in 21st century America. It also underscores how our country’s gun violence epidemic is connected to racial inequality and racism. Over the past decade, over 125,000 Americans were intentionally shot and killed by another person. It is estimated that at least five times that number were hospitalized or treated in emergency rooms after surviving serious, life-altering gunshot injuries. The vast majority of those shot by another person were people of color.

Research and case studies have shown that through a combination of low-cost, community-oriented intervention programs and much-needed firearms policy reforms, gun violence rates in underserved communities can be dramatically reduced in as little as two years. For too long, states have failed to invest in effective programs to address this violence and murder inequality, but recently, states and localities are increasingly prioritizing funding these intervention strategies to address the imbalance. 

However, states and cities cannot bear this financial burden alone. Earlier this year, Giffords worked with mayors from across the country to call on Congress to provide emergency funding for violence intervention programs, citing increases in gun violence and healthcare systems already under strain from the coronavirus pandemic. A memo from Giffords Law Center highlights the dual crises facing cities across the country: the ongoing epidemic of gun violence entwined with the coronavirus pandemic, as both health crises tragically amplify the other’s harms.


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