Christopher Barsotti, MD, FACEP
Firearm-related victimization, injury and death are among the most urgent public health problems facing our country, but there exists no utilitarian set of solutions because we, as a society, have not invested in the process of learning what works: we have not invested in research.
Since the passage of the Dickey Amendment in 1996, there have been $0 in appropriations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for firearm injury prevention research. The National Institutes of Health have maintained a meager firearm research budget, but shuttered its funding program last year. Although the 2018 Omnibus Bill is reported to have eased Dickey Amendment restrictions on federal funding for firearm injury prevention research, Section 210 of the Omnibus bill, in fact, echoes the language of the Dickey Amendment and reiterates that "None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control." Notably, no funds were appropriated for research.
Despite more than 20 years of advocacy by the medical professions, and a concerted call by ACEP and myriad other professional medical organizations to address the current epidemic of gun violence as a public health crisis, the US Congress continues to deny adequate appropriations for research. Recognizing that further delay in research funding is unacceptable, current and former TIPS Chairs, Christopher Barsotti, MD, FACEP, and Megan Ranney, MD, MPH, FACEP, have co-created, and co-lead a new philanthropy, the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (dba AFFIRM), to aggregate private sector financial resources to fund firearm injury prevention research, and bypass political obstacles and interference.
AFFIRM’s mission is to end the epidemic of gun violence in America, which will be accomplished by enabling research. Public health research – and derived, evidence-based practices – have been uniformly successful in diminishing disease and injury burdens for every other public health crisis. AFFIRM-funded research will foster innovation, guide evidence-based practices to reduce firearm injury and death, and inform decision-makers across the country.
In fulfillment of its mission, AFFIRM has been joined by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons, and the Massachusetts Medical Society (publisher of the New England Journal of Medicine). More information is available at www.affirmresearch.org.