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Will Federal Research Funds Help to Prevent Gun Violence?

Will Federal Research Funds Help to Prevent Gun Violence?

Illustration by ALAJ/Getty Images

Absolutely! Research is needed to fill in gaps in the logic model behind certain gun laws. How do they impact high risk groups’ access to guns? How do prohibited individuals and gun traffickers try to evade laws?  Is it more effective to focus on changing violent or suicidal behavior or to focus on restricting access to guns? Dedicated public investment in research will answer these questions and, in turn, lead to more effective solutions.

Daniel Webster, ScD ’91, MPH, is a Bloomberg Professor of American Health at the Bloomberg School and director of the School’s Center for Gun Policy and Research

Approval of federal research funds [in December] has paved the way for science to keep kids safer from gun violence. Evidence-based research will facilitate best practices for health providers in the protection of children from firearm-related injuries and deaths, as well as the adverse effects of exposure to gun violence. A “vision zero” where no child should die or live in fear of dying from gun violence is on the horizon. 

Nina Agrawal MD, FAAP, is chair of the Injury and Violence Prevention Committee, American Academy of Pediatrics’ New York chapter; and assistant professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center.

Good research leads to lives saved. Careful epidemiology illuminates the etiologies and mechanics of the problem and suggests interventions; experimental research tests which actually work. We need to get better at bringing those most affected by gun injury—including gun owners—into the research process to ask the right questions and find truly responsive solutions.

Catherine Barber, MPA, is a senior researcher at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The recent federal commitment of $25 million for gun violence research will make a difference if those dollars are used to support research that builds on current knowledge about effective gun violence prevention policies and practices. By prioritizing rigorous research that informs policy and practice—including effective implementation strategies—Congress’ decision to invest in one of the nation’s most pressing public health problems will be money well spent.

Shannon Frattaroli, PhD ’99, MPH ’94, is an associate professor in Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School.

Federal research funds will help prevent gun violence by providing us with more data. It will help us better understand risk factors for violent behavior, help inform best practices for implementation of existing gun laws, and help us learn about the role of alcohol and other substances in firearm violence. It will help us understand what contributes to gun violence in all its forms—and what can be done to prevent injuries and deaths.  

Josh Horwitz, JD, is executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.