This Chart Shows How Research on Gun Violence Has Been Gutted

A new study finds that firearms are the least researched major cause of death in America.


Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The war on research into gun violence began two decades ago when, with the backing of the National Rifle Association, the Republican-controlled Congress effectively killed off federal funding for it. A 1996 appropriation bill banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using any funds to “advocate or promote gun control,” which was interpreted as meaning any type of research on firearms deaths was prohibited. Soon afterwards, other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, were subject to the same requirements. Twenty years later, there remains a dearth of information on the public-health effects of gun violence, despite the more than 10,000 gun homicides that occur every year and their staggering costs.

Last week, David E. Stark, a physician and professor from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Nigam H. Shah, a researcher at Stanford University, published a research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that puts the issue in bleak terms: “In relation to mortality rates, gun violence research was the least-researched cause of death.” Stark and Shah found that just $22 million in federal funds went towards researching gun violence between 2004 and 2015. If it the research had been funded at the same rate as other leading causes of death, gun violence research would have received $1.4 billion, they calculate.

For example, gun violence kills about as many people as sepsis annually. Yet, federal funding for gun violence research was less than 1 percent of that for sepsis over the 11-year period studied. And less common causes of death, including fires, malnutrition, anemia, and viral hepatitis, got much more research funding. “Given that gun violence disproportionately affects the young and inflicts many more nonfatal injuries than deaths, it is likely that the true magnitude of research funding disparity, when considering years of potential life lost or lived with disability, is even greater,” the researchers write.

The chart below shows just how little funding goes to research on gun violence relative to America’s other top causes of death.

JAMA/Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai



Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend