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Considerations for Developing an Agenda for Gun Violence Prevention Research

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?

Neighborhood Interventions to Reduce Violence

January 12, 2018

Violence is a widespread problem that affects the physical, mental, and social health of individuals and communities. Violence comes with an immense economic cost to its victims and society at large. Although violence interventions have traditionally targeted individuals, changes to the built environment in places where violence occurs show promise as practical, sustainable, and high-impact preventive measures. This review examines studies that use quasi-experimental or experimental designs to compare violence outcomes for treatment and control groups before and after a change is implemented in the built environment. The most consistent evidence exists in the realm of housing and blight remediation of buildings and land. Some evidence suggests that reducing alcohol availability, improving street connectivity, and providing green housing environments can reduce violent crimes. Finally, studies suggest that neither transit changes nor school openings affect community violence.

Commentary: Evidence to Guide Gun Violence Prevention in America

January 7, 2015

Gun violence is a major threat to the public's health and safety in the United States. The articles in this volume's symposium on gun violence reveal the scope of the problem and new trends in mortality rates from gunfire. Leading scholars synthesize research evidence that demonstrates the ability of numerous policies and programs -- each consistent with lessons learned from successful efforts to combat public health problems -- to prevent gun violence. Each approach presents challenges to successful implementation. Future research should inform efforts to assess which approaches are most effective and how to implement evidence-based interventions most effectively.

Effects of Policies Designed to Keep Firearms from High-Risk Individuals

January 7, 2015

This article summarizes and critiques available evidence from studies published between 1999 and August 2014 on the effects of policies designed to keep firearms from high-risk individuals in the United States. Some prohibitions for high-risk individuals (e.g., those under domestic violence restraining orders, violent misdemeanants) and procedures for checking for more types of prohibiting conditions are associated with lower rates of violence. Certain laws intended to prevent prohibited persons from accessing firearms -- rigorous permit-to-purchase, comprehensive background checks, strong regulation and oversight of gun dealers, and requiring gun owners to promptly report lost or stolen firearms -- are negatively associated with the diversion of guns to criminals. Future research is needed to examine whether these laws curtail nonlethal gun violence and whether the effects of expanding prohibiting conditions for firearm possession are modified by the presence of policies to prevent diversion.

Cure Violence: A Public Health Model to Reduce Gun Violence

January 7, 2015

Scholars and practitioners alike in recent years have suggested that real and lasting progress in the fight against gun violence requires changing the social norms and attitudes that perpetuate violence and the use of guns. The Cure Violence model is a public health approach to gun violence reduction that seeks to change individual and community attitudes and norms about gun violence. It considers gun violence to be analogous to a communicable disease that passes from person to person when left untreated. Cure Violence operates independently of, while hopefully not undermining, law enforcement. In this article, we describe the theoretical basis for the program, review existing program evaluations, identify several challenges facing evaluators, and offer directions for future research.

Focused Deterrence and the Prevention of Violent Gun Injuries: Practice, Theoretical Principles, and Scientific Evidence

January 7, 2015

Focused deterrence strategies are a relatively new addition to a growing portfolio of evidence-based violent gun injury prevention practices available to policy makers and practitioners. These strategies seek to change offender behavior by understanding the underlying violence-producing dynamics and conditions that sustain recurring violent gun injury problems and by implementing a blended strategy of law enforcement, community mobilization, and social service actions. Consistent with documented public health practice, the focused deterrence approach identifies underlying risk factors and causes of recurring violent gun injury problems, develops tailored responses to these underlying conditions, and measures the impact of implemented interventions. This article reviews the practice, theoretical principles, and evaluation evidence on focused deterrence strategies. Although more rigorous randomized studies are needed, the available empirical evidence suggests that these strategies generate noteworthy gun violence reduction impacts and should be part of a broader portfolio of violence prevention strategies available to policy makers and practitioners.

The Epidemiology of Firearm Violence in the Twenty-First Century United States

December 12, 2014

This brief review summarizes the basic epidemiology of firearm violence, a large and costly public health problem in the United States for which the mortality rate has remained unchanged for more than a decade. It presents findings for the present in light of recent trends. Risk for firearm violence varies substantially across demographic subsets of the population and between states in patterns that are quite different for suicide and homicide. Suicide is far more common than homicide and its rate is increasing; the homicide rate is decreasing. As with other important health problems, most cases of fatal firearm violence arise from large but low-risk subsets of the population; risk and burden of illness are not distributed symmetrically. Compared with other industrialized nations, the United States has uniquely high mortality rates from firearm violence.