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This special collection brings together evidence and insights from nonprofits, foundations, and research organizations working to understand the full impact of firearm use and gun violence in the US. By providing us with analyses of current state and federal laws as well as valuable data on suicides, homicides, accidents, and mass shootings, these organizations seek to inform sound public policy and to curb this ongoing public health epidemic.

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"Gun Violence" by M+R Glasgow licensed under CC 2.0

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Improving Data Infrastructure to Reduce Firearms Violence

October 19, 2021

In the fall of 2020, Arnold Ventures, a philanthropy dedicated to maximizing opportunity and minimizing injustice, and NORC at University of Chicago, an objective nonpartisan research institution, released the Blueprint for a US Firearms Infrastructure (Roman, 2020). The Blueprint is the consensus report of an expert panel of distinguished academics, trailblazing practitioners, and government leaders. It describes 17 critical reforms required to modernize how data about firearms violence of all types (intentional, accidental, and self-inflicted) are collected, integrated and disseminated. This project, which is also supported by Arnold Ventures, takes the conceptual priorities described in the Blueprint and proposes specific new steps for implementation.The first step in building a better firearms data infrastructure is to acknowledge where we currently stand. In The State of Firearm Data in 2019 (Roman, 2019), the expert panel found that while there are a substantial number of data sources that collect data on firearms violence, existing datasets and data collections are limited, particularly around intentional injuries. There is some surveillance data, but health data on firearms injuries are kept separately from data on crimes, and there are few straightforward ways to link those data. Data that provide context for a shooting--where the event took place, and what the relationship was between victim and shooter--are not available alongside data on the nature of injuries. Valuable data collections have been discontinued, data are restricted by policy, important data are not collected, data are often difficult to access, and contemporary data are often not released in a timely fashion or not available outside of specialized settings. As a result, researchers face vast gaps in knowledge and are unable to leverage existing data to build the evidence base necessary to adequately answer key policy questions and inform firearms policymaking.In the Blueprint, the expert panel developed a set of recommendations organized around a reconceptualization of how data are collected and who collects data. The broad themes from the Blueprint are as follows:Almost all surveillance data in health and criminal justice is generated locally. It is a high priority to provide information, technical assistance, implementation supports, and funding to state and local governments to improve their collections.Comprehensive monitoring of all federal data collections is needed to ensure that important data elements are being collected, data gaps are being addressed, and quality issues are quickly resolved.Timely dissemination of key data is important, including the development of guidelines to ensure consistency across collections and that resources are made available to speed reporting for collections with historical delays.Improvement is needed in strategic communication about the purpose and use of data to federal agencies, researchers and to the general public.The current report builds on the Blueprint by developing implementation guidance for key recommendations. Where the Blueprint included actionable recommendations, such as naming discontinued surveys that should be resurrected, this report develops specific recommendations for implementation. The report is centered on three topics that were the highest priority for the expert panel but that required additional research before guidance could be disseminated. The research findings from that additional investigation are reported here, and recommendations to facilitate implementation are described. The three topic areas are as follows:The creation of a nonfatal firearms injury databaseIncreasing the quality, availability, and usefulness of firearms data for research and policyPractical steps for building state capacity and infrastructure to use data for evidence-based decision-making