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Lack of federal research makes it tough to know if new gun policies work

Colorado wants to start a state-funded center on gun violence prevention
boulder king soopers march 23 boulder strong
Posted at 12:24 PM, May 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-08 14:32:48-04

Colorado Democrats were unanimous in mission last week: They had to take action after the Boulder King Soopers mass shooting in March, and three new guns bills were the result.

“Coloradans have wanted change since 1999 after Columbine,” Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg of Boulder said April 29. “They wanted change since 2012 after the Aurora theater shooting. And they’ve once again asked for change over the past month.”

The tricky part, however, is not what bills lawmakers here and across the country can pass, but whether the policies have the intended impact. There is no centralized national public health research to back up some proposals (though some states have conducted small studies) and that’s because the 1996 Dickey Amendment banned the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using federal funding for gun control.

Experts say the tide is shifting and more federal resources are being allocated to research. Plus, Colorado is proposing with HB21-1299 to create a gun violence prevention office, similar to what’s in California, Washington, Massachusetts and New York, as a means of setting up state-funded research centers.

“One of the things that we’ve seen happen, particularly when there’s a mass shooting, is that people are so horrified and politicians want to respond, they want to do something,” said Dr. Amy Barnhorst, mental health and firearm expert at the University of California, Davis. “ … So they pass together some piece of legislation that in people’s minds might have prevented that particular incident but often isn’t applicable to even other incidents of mass violence, let alone the other 99.5% of firearm deaths are happening every year in this country.”

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