April 1, 2021
In December 2019, for the first time in more than 20 years, the US Congress appropriated, and the president signed, a bill that included $25 million for gun violence prevention research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. This research should find ways to reduce injury, death, and suffering while protecting the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms. Four questions can structure this research agenda. First, what is the problem: How many people get shot, who are they, where does it happen, what is the relationship between the shooter and the victim, what other types of damage are incurred, and are the shootings increasing or decreasing? Second, 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, robbery, 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? Third, what works: Which practices, interventions, policies, and laws work best to prevent these deaths and injuries? And fourth, how do you do it: How do you implement the findings and translate them into policies, legislation, and practices that can be scaled up?