The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has branched out from issuing COVID-19 recommendations and its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, now says that the health services agency will be restarting its dormant “gun violence” research program in order to address the “epidemic” of firearm deaths and injuries.
Walensky made the announcement in a sit-down interview with CNN where she noted that, for the first time in “decades,” the CDC will weigh in on the issue of gun control.
“Something has to be done about this,” Walensky told CNN. “Now is the time — it’s pedal to the metal time.”
The CDC “saves lives and protects people from health threats,” according to its own mission statement. It says it “works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.”
Historically, the CDC has largely been limited to addressing illnesses and pathogenic health threats, advising on health and wellness (most recently, a salmonella warning about prosciutto), and helping Americans prepare for natural disasters.
Leftists have long argued, however, that the CDC should be involved in researching the causes of “gun violence” and methods of prevention. The Dickey Amendment, passed in 1996, prevented the CDC from using government funds to explicitly advocate for gun control, but according to The Atlantic, the CDC’s leadership generally refused to tough the subject of firearm injuries and deaths, fearing “political — and personal — retribution.”
Walensky, fresh off of updating the agency’s recommendations for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 — back in July, the agency recommended that even individuals vaccinated against the virus wear face masks indoors — now wants to reverse her predecessor’s decision to shy away from the issue of guns.
“The scope of the problem is just bigger than we’re even hearing about, and when your heart wrenches every day you turn on the news, you’re only hearing the tip of the iceberg,” Walensky said. “We haven’t spent the time, energy, and frankly the resources to understand this problem because it’s been so divided.”
“Generally the word ‘gun,’ for those who are worried about research in this area, is followed by the word ‘control.’ And that’s not what I want to do here. I’m not here about gun control. I’m here about preventing gun violence and gun death,” Walensky said, adding that she was following up on President Joe Biden’s commitment, in this year’s State of the Union-style address to Congress, to consider gun violence as a “public health epidemic.”
Walensky claimed that her focus on gun violence will involve groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and that she plans to focus, at least partially, on gun safety. It is spending roughly $8 million “on 18 research projects to prevent gun-related violence and injuries,” studying whether programs that teach children gun safety cut down on childhood gun deaths, and whether hanging posters with suicide hotline numbers in gun stores reduce gun suicides.
“My job is to understand and evaluate the problem, to understand the scope of the problem, to understand why this happens and what are the things that can make it better – to research that, to scale that up, to evaluate it and to make sure that we can integrate it into communities,” Walensky said. “We have a lot of work to do in every single one of those areas because we haven’t done a lot of work as a nation in almost any of them.”
“Every day we turn on the news and there are more young people dying. I swore to the president and to this country that I would protect your health. This is clearly one of those issues that is harming America’s health,” she told CNN. “Something has to be done about this. 40,000 firearm related deaths a year. 120,000 serious firearm-related injuries per year.”