- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2019

House Democrats on Monday rolled out an initial version of an education and health spending bill for next year that includes $50 million specifically designated for federal gun violence research, laying down another marker on an issue they’ve pursued aggressively this year.

The $189.8 billion bill funds programs in the labor, health, and education departments. It’s the first of 12 individual spending bills for fiscal 2020, which starts Oct. 1, that the House Appropriations Committee plans to consider.

It includes $8.3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including $25 million to support “firearm injury and mortality prevention research.”

“For the first time in more than 20 years, it also includes funding to ensure the CDC can conduct scientific research to reduce injuries and save lives from gun violence,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, New York Democrat and Appropriations chairwoman.

The bill also includes $25 million for similar research within the National Institutes of Health.

A provision routinely included in annual funding bills generally prohibits federal money from being used “to advocate or promote gun control.”

Alex M. Azar II, President Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services, has said that the provision — known as the Dickey Amendment — only relates to advocacy and that it wouldn’t necessarily bar the CDC from conducting gun-related research. But gun control advocates say the language has had a chilling effect on lawmakers and federal researchers wary of inadvertently crossing any lines.

Republicans have opposed changing the language, and any spending bills that are enacted into law will ultimately need to pass through the GOP-led Senate in addition to the Democratic-controlled House.

Still, gun control advocates applauded the move.

“The time for action has never been more urgent — that’s why we applaud the 2019 House majority for taking this issue seriously from day one,” said Robin Lloyd managing director of Giffords, a gun control group. “Along with passing stronger gun laws, they are finally allocating money for researchers to properly study this public health and public safety crisis.”

The Democrat-led House has already passed legislation this year to expand gun-purchase background checks to cover virtually all gun sales and to extend the amount of time dealers have to wait to hear back from the FBI before proceeding with a sale.

Those proposals aren’t going anywhere in the GOP-led Senate, and Mr. Trump has threatened to veto them.

But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, has expressed an interest in pursuing legislation that would incentivize states to pass “red flag” laws that allow law enforcement to temporarily suspend the gun rights of people judged to be a danger to themselves or others.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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