Questions and ideas to guide public health research on gun violence


The question we ask is not whether gun violence is a problem primarily for the public health or criminal justice sector, but how these two sectors can work together – and with other sectors – to maximize public safety and welfare while fully respecting the rights of citizens. . Equity must become another important variable: we must remain focused on the impact of our interventions on racial disparities when examining the effectiveness of these policies.

The science is organized around four questions, which serve to structure this research agenda.

A.) What is the problem?

How many people get shot, who are they, where does it happen? What type of weapon was used and how was it obtained? What is the relationship between the shooter and the victim? What other types of damage are taken and do the shots increase or decrease?

B.) What are the causes ?

What is the role of alcohol and drugs? What is the role of gangs, poverty and systemic racism? What is the role of mental illness, theft and domestic violence? What is the role of private gun ownership (both positive and negative) and easy access to guns? What are the factors that protect us, such as stable families and safe environments?

VS.) What works?

What practices, interventions, policies and laws are most effective in preventing these deaths and injuries?

What kind of evidence of effectiveness do we have for policies such as background checks, bans on the sale of large capacity firearm magazines, child access prevention laws, concealed carry laws, firearms sales reporting requirements, gun-free zones, licensing and permit requirements, reporting requirements for lost or stolen firearms, requirements minimum age restrictions, prohibitions associated with mental illness, field laws, surrender of firearms by prohibited possessors (including extreme risk protection orders or “red flag laws”) or waiting periods?

What does the evidence show about the effectiveness of voluntary gun safety practices such as the use of trigger locks, gun training, self-registration with the Federal National Instant Verification System (NICS) (a prior commitment against suicide) and the preventive use of firearms for personal protection and to deter crime?

D.) How do you do?

How do you implement the results and translate them into policies, legislation and practices that can be scaled up?

How can researchers better communicate their findings to the public in a way that will change beliefs and culture around guns in a safer and healthier direction, as private gun ownership in the United States is “widespread, culturally rooted and constitutionally protected”? How can scientific discoveries be effectively communicated and applied when a growing part of the population is skeptical and denier of science?

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What works to prevent gun violence and protect gun rights?

Answering the question of what works requires finding interventions that simultaneously address two goals: reducing gun violence and protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

These objectives are not mutually exclusive. Through gun violence prevention research, we can find interventions that will achieve both goals: protecting gun rights and reducing gun violence.

Strategies that work in achieving both goals could, for example, aim to keep guns out of reach of those who shouldn’t have them while allowing law-abiding gun owners to keep their guns. These strategies must be carefully crafted using behavioral risk factors and targeted to those at high risk of firearm homicide or suicide, while fully respecting constitutional laws and policies.

Once we find these strategies, research will be needed to prove that these interventions both reduce gun violence and protect gun rights. A third goal of this research should also be to find interventions that will reduce racial disparities in terms of the burdens of gun violence and how laws are enforced.

Some of the answers to these questions will come from analysis of existing datasets, others may require new data collection efforts, and some may require large-scale controlled trials spanning multiple jurisdictions over an extended period.

Federal and state governments can have a unique role to play in helping to design and implement such studies, especially when they require the collaboration of different departments (such as police, public health, housing and urban development, education, health care and mental health). health). Examples of possible ways to achieve both goals include universal background checks, gap-filling, and outcome tracking; access restrictions for perpetrators of domestic violence; red flag laws; and safe storage (of firearms).

How do you measure the impact of an intervention or policy on the rights of law-abiding gun owners?

Research is needed to develop a way to measure the impact of different interventions on the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Just as environmental impact measurement helps us protect the environment, this research will help us protect and measure gun rights. What gets measured gets done.

What are the benefits and costs of owning a firearm?

What are the benefits and costs of gun policies for law-abiding gun owners, people who do not own guns, and other stakeholders (e.g., police, government, etc.) school staff)? Does having more law-abiding citizens carrying guns discourage crime and reduce gun violence? Are gun safety programs that include improved safety practices for gun owners effective?


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