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Former Rep. Jay Dickey has changed his mind on government funded research on gun violence

"Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution," Dickey wrote in a letter to Congress

Washington CNN  — 

The former Republican congressman who pushed legislation nearly 20 years ago that effectively banned the federal government from funding research on gun violence is calling on Congress to reverse that law.

In a letter to the chair of House Democrats’ task force on gun violence prevention, former Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas called for the government to fund research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to examine the causes of gun violence in the U.S. and expressed “regrets” for his part in stopping that research.

“It is my position that somehow or someway we should slowly but methodically fund such research until a solution is reached. Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution,” Dickey wrote in a letter dated Tuesday.

Rep. Mike Thompson, chairman of the House Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force that was created in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, released the letter on Wednesday, hours after news broke of a shooting in San Bernardino, California, where at least 14 people were killed and another 17 injured.

Dickey has said in recent months that he regrets the legislative effort he led in 1996 effectively stopped the CDC from conducting research aimed at understanding and preventing gun violence in the U.S.

Dickey pushed to cut off funding out of concerns that the research would push policies that would infringe on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

“Research could have been continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners, in the same fashion that the highway industry continued its research without eliminating the automobile,” Dickey, who served in Congress from 1993 to 2001, wrote in his letter. “Scientific research should help answer how we can best reduce gun violence.”

President Barack Obama urged the CDC and other agencies to research gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre that killed 20 children and six adults. But the CDC has stayed away from that kind of research to avoid losing funding.

Thompson praised Dickey in a statement Wednesday, saying that “there is not one good reason to keep this ban in place.”

“I commend Jay Dickey for taking this stand,” Thompson said in the statement. “As gun owners, we want to protect the Second Amendment. But at the same time, we recognize the fact that we can safeguard those rights while also allowing our expert scientists to conduct research on how to best prevent gun violence.”