Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., speaks during a panel discussion on the role of young Americans in the 2022 midterms hosted by Center for American Progress at their headquarters in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. Credit: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades / AP

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We’re generally not in favor of more bureaucracy to solve problems. But, with a problem as complex – and deadly – as gun violence, any productive steps forward are an improvement.

That’s why a bill to create a federal Office of Gun Violence Prevention deserves support.

The bill is sponsored by Florida Democratic Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a survivor of a gun violence incident in Florida who became an activist after a gunman murdered 20 students and six adults at the Sandy Hook School in 2012.

“It’s about having common sense gun reforms so we can live in a country where we don’t have to fear for our kids being mowed down,” Frost told Good Morning America on Wednesday, two days after a shooting at a private religious school in Nashville left six people dead.

The office, which would be part of the U.S. Department of Justice, would coordinate gun violence prevention efforts and pull together in one place needed information about the toll of this violence. Perhaps most important, it could help identify gaps in the information needed to help policy makers make better, data-driven decisions about ways to reduce gun violence.

“We need our government to step up here,” Frost added. “We need our government to work every day to solve an everyday problem.”

Here are some of the things we know about gun violence. It is now the number one cause of death for children and teens in America. Mass shootings are exponentially more common in the U.S. than in other developed countries, as are gun-related deaths in general. Suicides are more common in homes where guns are present and in states with high gun ownership rates. Women who are victims of domestic violence are eight times more likely to be killed by their partner if there is a gun in the home.

Yet, gun violence is one of the least researched causes of death in the U.S. There has also been a dearth of research into the efficacy of measures aimed at reducing gun deaths. For example, there were no studies on the efficacy of gun free zones or lost or stolen gun reporting requirements, according to a 2018 review by RAND, a nonprofit research and analysis institution. Studies about the impact of background checks, concealed carry laws, minimum age requirements and other restrictions on mass shootings were inconclusive, RAND found.

One reason for this lack of information is that there had been a chill on gun research for decades. In 1996, Congress passed a budget provision prohibiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using federal funds to “advocate for or promote gun control” and later expanded the provision to include the National Institutes of Health. Federal agencies interpreted the prohibition to forbid nearly all types of research into gun violence.

According to an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, gun research should have received $1.4 billion between 2004 and 2015, if funding were based on the number of firearms-related deaths. In reality, the researchers found only $22 million spent on gun research during that time, mostly by groups not funded by federal agencies.

Congress began to reverse this prohibition in 2018, when a spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump included language clarifying that the CDC has the authority to conduct research into the causes of gun violence. Then, in 2019, Congress – for the first time in 20 years – approved federal funding for gun research.

This new office could help ensure that these research dollars are used to identify the best ways to turn America’s deadly tide of gun-related violence without unnecessary and ineffective infringements on the rights of gun owners.

That would be a valuable step in the right direction.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...