Newly-confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday, the day after a mass murder in Florida that claimed the lives of 17 persons, most of whom were high school students. President Donald Trump, among others, deplored the incident and attention to mental health issues that may have triggered 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz to take the lives of his peers and a high school teacher on Wednesday in Parkland, Florida.
Azar said he is willing to consider conducting research on gun violence, despite a legislative action that would prevent the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from promoting gun control. He told the committee on Thursday, "My understanding is that the rider does not in any way impede our ability to conduct our research mission. It’s simply about advocacy.”
A "rider" -- a recurring provision in legislation -- prevents the CDC from looking into the origins of violence linked to firearms from a medical point of view so as to promote safety. The provision reads: “None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.”
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) called on Azar to follow up on research into violence caused by firearms. “We certainly will,” Azar said. “We’re in the science business and the evidence-generating business and so I will have our agency certainly be working in this field as they do across the whole broad spectrum of disease control and prevention.”