The report, the watchdog agency’s first of its kind, is based on available data on the care of people who sustain non-fatal gun injuries each year. This should fuel Democrats’ calls for an expanded background check amid a stalemate over gun control legislation.
“Congress must do whatever it takes – including removing the obstruction if necessary – to deal with this public health crisis,” said New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, who led the coalition calling for the GAO study.
The report notes that the true annual health costs of gun use are likely much higher than $ 1 billion because GAO’s total does not include all treatments for physical and mental injuries. long term or expensive additions like ambulance rides. Other independent studies have estimated a total annual cost as high as $ 2.8 billion.
Democrats have long sought to portray gun violence as a public health and criminal justice issue, and have enlisted help in recent years from medical groups that have jumped into the debate.
The Democratic-controlled House passed two bills to expand background checks earlier this year. Yet most gun control legislation has not progressed in the Senate 50-50. Biparty talks on expanding background checks collapsed in early June after Senators failed to close the gap on a compromise, though Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) Is pushing for reduced legislation aimed at getting all Democrats in the upper house on council.
President Joe Biden addressed gun violence on Monday in a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland, state and local officials and an expert on violence intervention, focusing on the administration’s plan to encourage cities to use Covid relief to bolster police services. Cracking down on illegal firearms is also part of the Biden administration‘s strategy, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which oversees licensing for gun sellers, does still has no leader confirmed by the Senate.
Other Democrats who called for the GAO study, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Representative Robin Kelly of Illinois, have concluded that people receiving expensive medical care for gunshot wounds are disproportionately large. men, blacks, poor and living in the South. . The report found that these victims often receive worse treatment “because of racial prejudice in the health care system.”
Federal health agencies for decades were effectively prevented from conducting such research by a budget endorsement known as the Dickey Amendment. In 2018, Congress passed language clarifying that while agencies were not allowed to fund gun control defense, they were not prohibited from supporting research. Congress allocated money specifically for this work a year later.
The House appropriations committee is expected to mark a bill Thursday that doubles the National Institutes of Health’s budget for “gun injury and death prevention research” to $ 25 million.
Republicans have opposed the fundraising push, saying it injects gun policy into otherwise bipartisan federal health spending and raises the specter of health agencies engaging in anti-gun “propaganda.”
When asked if he supports increased federal funding for gun control research, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that “what we should be funding is lawsuits. for those who commit crimes with a firearm “.
Democrats, meanwhile, insist more research will lead to more action as bills to restrict access to guns stagnate on Capitol Hill.
“These results pave the way for Congress to embrace and embrace evidence-based solutions to address the scourge of gun violence,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).