March 14, 2016
Response to Article on Whether Mass Shootings, Like Viruses, are Contagious
The Washington Post published a letter on March 13, 2016, from APA Interim CEO Cynthia D. Belar, PhD, ABPP, in response to its March 9, 2016, article, "Are mass shootings contagious?"
The March 9 front-page article "Are mass shootings contagious?" noted that the nation's ability to fully investigate this question is limited, apparently referring to language attached to a fiscal 1997 appropriations bill by then-Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark., that stated that none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control. This amendment remains in force.
The CDC has the authority to conduct violence-prevention research, clarified in recent executive actions and now supported by Mr. Dickey and many current members of Congress, but it is hampered by a lack of dedicated funding and clearer guidance through congressional action about what research would be construed as advocacy.
There is a growing consensus among health professionals that in order to reduce the deaths and injuries associated with firearms, we need to take a public health approach and conduct research on gun violence prevention. The American Psychological Association supports the administration's efforts to encourage and fund critically needed research in this area.
Cynthia D. Belar, Washington
The writer is interim chief executive of the American Psychological Association.