Amid more mass shootings in the U.S., some states are moving to collect hard data to guide their decisions about guns even as the federal government has retreated from such research in the face of pressure from pro-gun groups, reports Stateline. The New Jersey Legislature is weighing a measure that would create a gun-violence research center at Rutgers University. The center would be modeled on the new Firearm Violence Prevention Research Center at the University of California at Davis, which launched last summer with $5 million in state money over five years. The impetus for both initiatives is the vacuum created by the federal government’s virtual abandonment of research into gun violence, including its causes, its patterns, its perpetrators, its victims, and the best ways, based on scientific evidence, to curtail it.
The federal government’s reluctance to fund research has had a ripple effect. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year found that between 2004 and 2015, research related to gun violence was “substantially underfunded and understudied” compared with other leading causes of death, based on the mortality rates of each. The study said that gun violence research received $22 million, 1.6 percent of the funding that would be predicted ($1.4 billion) based on the number of deaths caused by guns, 36,252 in 2015. The influence of pro-gun groups has dissuaded many private foundations from funding such research, says David Hemenway, who studies gun violence and injury prevention at the T. H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. “California essentially said that the federal government wasn’t fulfilling its responsibility, so we’re going to step into the breach, just as we have with climate change and years before with highway safety,” said Garen Wintemute, the director of the new California center and an emergency physician who has studied gun violence for three decades.