It has been a bloody year in the United States. So far, the country has lost around 6,000 lives to gun violence — dozens of them in mass shootings in public spaces. The attack that left 49 men and women dead in Orlando, Florida, this month is, by some counts, the 136th mass shooting in the United States just this year.

Mourning — and then moving on — in the wake of a mass shooting has become a sombre tradition. But after Orlando, a new development emerged. On 14 June, the American Medical Association (AMA) declared gun violence a public-health crisis, and announced that it will apply its considerable lobbying power to pressure Congress to fund research into this violence. It is cause for optimism that a lengthy freeze on federal funding for such research — particularly at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — may soon thaw.

It makes sense that this push would come from the medical community: it has a front-row seat on the violence. “Here we are again,” physicians wrote in a New England Journal of Medicine editorial in January, following a shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 and injured 22. Six months later, at a press conference following the Orlando tragedy, one surgeon choked back tears as he described the chaos in an emergency room filled not only with the injured, but also with hundreds of their panicked friends and families. Another coolly described the reality that surgeons at his Orlando trauma centre face daily: people wounded by high-calibre assault rifles, once considered to be the exclusive domain of the military, now flooding into civilian emergency rooms.

Yet while doctors struggle to treat the wounded, the CDC has been hamstrung in tackling fundamental public-health questions about the causes of gun violence and its possible solutions. An amendment placed on appropriations bills since 1996 has prohibited federally funded research from advocating gun control — a provision that some have interpreted as making gun-violence research broadly off limits.

In 2013, US President Barack Obama explicitly stated that such research should take place and need not be interpreted as advocacy, but Congress failed to allocate funds in the CDC budget to support it. (The US National Institutes of Health, which has more discretion in how it applies its funding, has sponsored some gun-violence research following Obama’s announcement.)

The AMA is a lobbying powerhouse: in 2015, it was the fourth-largest lobbyist in the country. If it chooses to make gun-violence research a high priority, it has the resources to make headway. But it will take a tremendous push — and coordination with other stakeholder organizations — to do so.

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, lawmakers followed what has become a legislative post-mass-shooting tradition: the rapid-fire proposal — and equally rapid rejection — of bills intended to address the country’s gun-violence crisis. Earlier this week, the US Senate defeated five such measures. Similar proposals, including one intended to explicitly allow research into gun violence, met the same fate last December. But with concerted effort from the AMA and others, perhaps the United States will break with these traditions.