A lawmaker learned of an active shooter in her state during a hearing about gun violence prevention

Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos’ brows furrowed as she joined a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

“I was across the hall at another hearing, and so that is why I came in late, and the reason I came over here was because I got a text to me, saying that right now, as we sit here, there is an active shooter in my part of the state of Illinois, in Rockford, Illinois,” Bustos said.

The irony was not lost on Bustos as lawmakers gathered Thursday for a hearing about gun violence research. With rates of gun deaths appearing to rise, the issue has been called a public health emergency.

The room fell quiet as Bustos described how the shooter was being served a warrant before he opened fire and shot a law enforcement officer. Rockford Police said the suspect, 39-year-old Floyd Brown, was accused of shooting an agent with the US Marshals task force.

“This shooter is now on the loose, so everybody in our community is being warned about how he is armed and dangerous,” Bustos told the room.

“Everybody sitting up here, everybody sitting out there knows of these kind of stories, and just the imminent threat, and you just never know when these things are going to hit,” she said. “I just can not imagine the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t invested more resources to get to the bottom of this. … This is really hitting home right now.”

The House Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee held the hearing to address potential federal funding for gun violence prevention research as Congress enters the 2020 fiscal year appropriations process.

The idea is that more research could help better inform the nation’s understanding of gun violence as well as the decision-making around possible legislation.

“Nearly 40,000 Americans are killed by guns each year, and tens of thousands more are treated for gun injuries,” New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said in a news release ahead of the hearing.

“It is clear that the United States faces a public health emergency of gun violence, one that is breaking apart families, eroding the safety of communities, and threatening our shared future,” she said. “Only by conducting scientific research on gun violence can we better understand the causes of this crisis and develop and implement a public health response to reduce gun injuries and deaths.”

Lowey said that without dedicated funding from Congress, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “cannot move forward with the important work of performing research into the causes of gun violence.”

The American College of Surgeons “supports an appropriations request of $50 million specifically for firearm morbidity and mortality prevention research through the CDC” as part of the 2020 fiscal year, Dr. Ronald Stewart, director of trauma programs at the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, said in a prepared statement for delivery to lawmakers at the hearing.

Why a debate over funding gun violence research rages on

Thursday’s hearing came almost a year after Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee blocked a proposal to designate $10 million in funding for gun violence research. The