(This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. ET.)
In the aftermath of one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history, public health organizations and Democratic lawmakers are pushing to treat gun violence as a public health issue.
A few hours before a shooting that killed 14 and wounded more than 20 others in San Bernardino, Calif., on Wednesday, a group of doctors appeared with some Democratic members of the House to ask Congress to allow research on gun violence in the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not researched gun violence since 1996, when a Republican-controlled Congress, concerned that the agency was promoting gun control measures, pulled funding, The issue became a political non-starter for other public health agencies as well.
Doctors for America joined the American Academy of Pediatrics and other doctors' organizations to request that public health agencies look into how gun violence affects Americans' health.
Dr. Alice Chen, executive director of Doctors for America, said in an interview Thursday that when she heard about the shooting Wednesday she thought of it as more evidence that her call for funding gun research earlier that day should be heeded.
She likened the idea of gun research to research on car safety that led to seatbelts, airbags and a reduction in deaths from automobile wrecks. Researchers could begin by looking at suicide prevention methods and ways to keep guns stored safely and inaccessible to children, she said.
A public safety approach means doing research and gathering data to answer the questions everyone has. It doesn't need to involve politics, she said.
“On both sides of the aisle it makes sense,” she said. “Let's get some data so we can help people.”
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) repeated the call for research funding he made in an October letter with other representatives to then-Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“Instead of turning a blind eye to our country's disproportionately high incidence of gun violence, let's investigate evidence-based solutions that will help prevent violence while still protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” they wrote.
Democrats tried to strike the riders that ban funding earlier this year but the notion was rejected along party lines.
President Barack Obama directed the CDC to conduct research on guns after the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He included $10 million for the research in his two most recent budget proposals but Republican legislators have not allowed the funding to go through.
During a quick news briefing in the Oval Office on Thursday morning, Obama called for legislators to take basic steps toward making it harder for people to harm others with guns.
“Right now it's just too easy,” he said.
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, reiterated his call Thursday for strengthening background checks for those buying firearms and for funding gun violence research.
“We strongly believe that common-sense measures can reduce the risk of death and injury caused by gun use, starting with our leaders in Congress taking action,” he said.
Also Thursday, Democratic senators, including Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, turned what was originally a news conference opposing the Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act through budget reconciliation into a call for basic gun control measures.