House Democrats Inquire about NIH’s Support of Gun Violence Research; Senate Democrats Urge Program’s Renewal

November 15, 2017

On November 14th, House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr (D-NJ), and Subcommittee on Energy Ranking Member Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins to inquire about the agency’s support of gun violence research. Citing the public health impact of gun-related violence as well as a recent report in Science that the NIH has discontinued dedicated funding for the program, Reps. Pallone and Rush stressed that the “federal government has been largely absent in providing funding for gun research.”

Their letter highlights NIH’s creation of a gun violence research program in September 2013 in response to the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. It also observes that the program has been “critical” to graduate and professional students interested in pursuing research in this subject. Stating a desire to “better understand the status of the program,” Reps. Pallone and Rush submitted a series of questions to the agency to clarify if NIH has, in fact, discontinued it.

Pallone and Rush requested the rationale for suspending the program if it is no longer active. Conversely, if the gun violence research program remains an NIH research priority, the Members seek the agency’s plans for funding it “in fiscal year 2018 and beyond.” Pallone and Rush also requested that the agency provide the number of gun violence research grants awarded as a result of the dedicated funding stream, as well as the three fiscal years before the funding stream was created. NIH is further asked to “list other actions” the agency “has taken or will take to advance gun violence research.”

Pallone’s and Rush’s letter follows an October 11, letter from 24 Senate Democrats led by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT) to Collins. Specifically, the Senate letter cited the funding opportunity, Research on the Health Determinants and Consequences of Violence and its Prevention, Particularly Firearm Violence, as a “critical piece of the NIH’s efforts to ‘understand how science can save lives.’” The letter expresses the signatories surprise to learn from a Science article that renewal of the funding opportunity is “under consideration” by NIH. The letter “strongly” urges NIH to “renew the gun violence program as soon as possible.”