Two weeks before the most deadly mass shooting in American history, President Barack Obama made strong statements about gun violence research and firearm control during a "PBS NewsHour" town hall program.
Near the end of the question-and-answer session, Doug Rhude, a local gun shop owner, challenged the President’s position on gun control, according to PBS. In his answer, Obama said that the NRA’s lobbying in Congress has prevented him from passing “common-sense” gun control policies.
According to the White House Briefing Room transcript of the town hall, Obama went on to say, “I got people who we know have been on the ISIL web sites … but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun.”
Obama continued to paint Congress as a barrier to solutions to America’s gun violence problem, asking Rhude, “Do you know that Congress will not allow the Center of Disease Control to study gun violence?” According to the transcript, Obama stated that the CDC was “not allowed” to research gun violence “the same way we do with traffic accidents.”
Obama has repeatedly attacked Congress for blocking CDC gun control research, according to the Washington Post. In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting, he requested an end to what he called a ban on gun violence research.
The rule in question goes back to 1996, when the NRA accused the CDC of deliberately lobbying for gun control, according to the Washington Post. Proponents of the rule say that it prevents the agency from pushing a partisan agenda on gun laws. The text of the rule says simply that CDC funds may not “be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
However, when the rule was added to the CDC’s appropriations bill, Congress stripped the agency of all funding for gun violence research. Business Insider says that the CDC has not been given funds for gun violence research since.
In a July 2015 press conference, then-Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, discussed the renewal of the rule, stating that gun violence was outside the scope of a health agency like the CDC, according to Business Insider. “I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease, he told reporters.