Private Group Pledges Nearly $10 Million to Gun Research

17 research projects to be funded

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A private group announced on Thursday it would provide nearly $10 million in grants for a number of gun-related studies.

The National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research said it would provide funding for research on topics like suicide, police shootings, school violence, and gun safety. The group has selected 17 different research projects to provide with grants. These projects will examine topics including gun use in domestic violence, police training for "high-stakes situations," and disadvantaged urban youths' experience with guns.

"America needs evidence-based answers on the causes of gun violence and how to prevent it," Collaborative Director Andrew Morral said in a statement. "These research projects, selected first and foremost for their rigor, will generate evidence for informing policy that protects the public and preserves the rights of responsible gun owners."

One grant of $57,042 will go to research on the impact of universal background checks, self-defense laws, and so-called "assault weapon" bans on gun homicides. Another grant of $643,150 will help connect databases of suicide data in order to better understand and prevent suicides. Another $481,261 grant will go to a national survey on "safe firearm storage practices" with the goal of understanding how to prevent firearm suicides among minors.

The group reviewed hundreds of applications for grants before deciding which to approve.

"The Collaborative received 248 letters of interest and invited 47 full proposals representing $30 million worth of proposed work," the group said. "The proposals were reviewed by at least two Ph.D.-level researchers, the Collaborative staff, and [Research Advisory Committee] members."

The Collaborative also consulted with groups representing the gun industry, gun control movement, law enforcement, and health advocates.

"Prior to making these awards, the committee heard from a range of firearm research stakeholders—including the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the National Rifle Association, March for Our Lives, Everytown for Gun Safety, Major Cities Chiefs Association, and the American College of Emergency Physicians—on where they believed new research on gun policy was most needed," the group said. "These stakeholder meetings informed the collaborative’s strategic plan and its funding decisions."

The full list of 17 projects is available on the Collaborative's website. Its funding comes from Arnold Ventures and is administrated by the RAND Corporation. The group said its goal is to produce studies to inform gun policies going forward.

"The Arnold Ventures philosophy is, we support research and evidence-based policy so the government can do its job better," Jeremy Travis, executive vice president of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures, said in a post on the group's website. "We like to take on tough issues, and gun violence is a tough issue."

The group points out that research into gun deaths has received limited federal funding in the wake of the 1996 Dickey Amendment which cut funding to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and barred the agency from using federal dollars to advocate for gun control policies. At the time, some researchers and CDC leadership said they wanted to use research to stigmatize gun ownership.

"We need to revolutionize the way we look at guns, like what we did with cigarettes," Dr. Mark Rosenberg, then-director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, told the New York Times. "It used to be that smoking was a glamour symbol, cool, sexy, macho. Now it is dirty, deadly and banned."

The Collaborative said it is sensitive to concerns about biased studies and promises "transparency and openness" in the way grants are awarded and studies are conducted.

"The committee represents very diverse positions on guns, different political parties, different communities affected by guns," Morral said. "Some gun violence research has been biased by the preconceptions of the researchers, or the researchers' funder. And that's led to a lot of suspicion of research in this area, on both sides of the debate. We're sensitive to those concerns, which is one of the reasons we are requiring NCGVR and its grantees to adhere to high standards of transparency and openness."

The Collaborative hopes new research would mitigate polarization in the debate over gun rights and gun control.

"Everyone agrees that we want to end gun violence, but the shortage of rigorous, impartial research has fueled polarization in discussions of gun policy," Frank M. Clark, chair of the Collaborative's nonpartisan Research Advisory Committee, said in a statement. "Research is a key step in the way forward. These projects will help us get beyond politics and ideology to determine what works and what doesn't."