(Image: March for Our Lives protest in 2018. Tony Webster, Creative Commons)

There are a number of organizations and journalists working hard to document the United States’ gun violence epidemic. Everytown for Gun Safety, for example, collects data pertaining to gun-related injuries and fatalities in order to educate the public and elected leaders. The Guardian runs a special program called Break the Cycle that provides a platform for voices offering creative, data-driven solutions to the nation’s gun problem, as well as the The Counted, an initiative that tracks people killed by police.

Despite the multitude of specialists and advocates dedicated to tackling gun violence, comprehensive, reliable data is hard to come by. This is primarily the result of pro-gun industry politicians who have stonewalled meaningful government research on the topic for decades.

As part of a funding bill in 1996, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, which banned federal funding for projects that “advocate or promote gun control.” The amendment is a symbol of conservative intransigence on discussing even minor reform of the nation’s gun laws. Consequently, government institutions including the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health have neglected their responsibility to investigate this pressing health crisis.

Nonprofits and news organizations lack the institutional heft of the federal government. By preventing government institutions from fulfilling their missions, elected officials are actively harming the U.S. population. Repealing the Dicky Amendment will not single-handedly solve this issue, but it would be a start.

Nonprofits can only do so much on gun violence. It’s time to hold the nation’s political leadership accountable and work together to tackle this devastating public health emergency.

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