Two days after a school shooter killed three children and three staff members at a private Christian school in Nashville, Democratic lawmakers are reintroducing legislation they say would help the nation understand an “ongoing gun violence epidemic.”
House and Senate Democrats held a press conference Wednesday afternoon reigniting their effort to fund research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that would track gun violence in the United States and inform firearm safety measures.
“We know this is not a panacea, but it’s a piece of the puzzle that for 20 years was barred because knowledge is power,” bill sponsor Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said. “For too long, the [National Rifle Association] and their acolytes in the United States House and Senate have wanted to take the power away from the people.”
The Gun Violence Prevention Research Act, which Democratic lawmakers have put forward after several mass shootings in recent years, would authorize $50 million each fiscal year over the next five years to boost the CDC’s firearms safety and gun violence prevention research. Democrats said it would supplement research projects already overseen by the CDC, including research on understanding the unique harms posed to young people, mitigating gun violence in highest-risk communities, and stopping firearm suicides among military service members and veterans and more.
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On Monday, six people were killed at a private Christian school in Nashville when an emotionally disturbed 28-year-old female who identified as a transgender male went on a shooting rampage with two rifles and a handgun, police said.
Three children and three adults were killed in the shooting. The victims were: Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, Hallie Scruggs, 9, William Kinney, 9, Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61.
The shooter was neutralized by responding police officers with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. The officers names were Michael Collazo, 31, and Rex Engelbert, 27.
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In response to the shooting, Democrats have renewed their demands for gun control legislation. The White House has called on Congress to “do something,” while Republicans have said there is a mental health crisis facing the nation that no gun laws could fix. Democrats reject this answer.
“How many more lives must be lost before Congress is moved to act?” Markey demanded at the news conference. “How many families must be torn apart?”
Republicans have previously opposed expanded funding for gun violence research at the CDC, arguing that such efforts would lead to “propaganda” for gun confiscation. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said Tuesday that Congress should not get involved after mass shootings, arguing that federal lawmakers are unable to prevent gun crimes and would just “mess things up.”
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He resents efforts on both sides of the aisle to politicize the tragedy, calling it a “horrific situation.”
Democrats acknowledge that their bill would not have stopped the shooting in Nashville. However, House sponsor Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., argued it was the duty of elected officials to protect children by funding studies that can contribute to gun safety, comparing the bill to studies the U.S. government conducted on seatbelts and car seats in the 1970s and 1980s to improve child safety in cars. She said these studies were “fundamental” to a push to mandate car seats and seat belts which saved lives.
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“To my colleagues who refuse to consider any gun safety legislation: If you’re so sure that any gun safety legislation is bad, you should at least be willing to study the problem and get the data you say you need to do something to protect our kids,” she challenged.