Although polar opponents on either side of the American gun control debate often pose their arguments as peer-reviewed fact, surprisingly little research has been done on the subject.

Consequently, a lot remains unknown. Gun safety technologies such as iris scans and gun-activating magnetic stripe badges are currently available. But would their use reduce gun injuries and deaths in the real world? And, if so, why? Also, what precisely is the long-term relationship between exposure to media violence and real-life gun violence?

Due to a strong influence from the pro-gun lobby, federally funded researchers have been effectively silenced in recent decades from exploring the science of gun violence, leaving questions lingering for nearly a generation — until now. Following the mass-shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 young children and six educators, President Barack Obama issued 23 executive orders to address gun violence in American society, with more than 8,000 murders by firearm in the U.S. in 2010.

Obama directed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to renew research into the subject, leading to a report released last week by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), part of the National Academies of Science. In a 69-page report, the IOM examined five areas: the nature of gun violence, risk factors and prevention factors, interventions and strategies, gun-safety technology, and the influence of media on violence.

The report authors generated a list of areas researchers might soon pursue, including whether gun retail background checks deter unlawful ownership of firearms — such as by felons or others restricted from purchasing and owning guns — and how effective the present policy and legal framework prevents gun sales to people diagnosed with specific psychiatric conditions.

However, funding for such studies is likely to be stringent given Washington's present budgetary environment, as sequestration politics cut funds for basic services, nevermind research some would call superfluous. Although Obama requested $10 million in new money for the CDC to begin the research, gun politics on Capitol Hill may scuttle the request. In the absence of funding, the CDC would be forced to cut other research objectives given the proposed $216 million cut for next year, a 5 percent cut as part of sequestration budgetary law.

"The complexity and frequency of gun-related violence combined with its impact on the health and safety of the nation's residents make it a topic of considerable public health importance," Alan Leshner, chairman of the study committee and chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told reporters.

The IOM was not asked for an opinion on budget politics but issued a telling comment nevertheless. "In the absence of this research, policymakers will be left to debate controversial policies without scientifically sound evidence about their potential effects."

The CDC has not yet commented on the report.