The University of Michigan will launch an initiative that encourages and coordinates research across disciplines to develop new knowledge and data on firearm violence, a public health problem that causes about 100 deaths per day across the United States.
U-M researchers in fields such as public health, medicine, social sciences, engineering, public policy and the arts will be able to work together to formulate and answer critical questions about firearm injury prevention, while respecting the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.
President Mark Schlissel announced the new initiative, led by the Office of the Vice President for Research, during his annual Leadership Breakfast on Oct. 3.
“The United States is unquestionably facing a public health crisis as it relates to the growing number of firearm injuries and deaths,” Schlissel said.
“The University of Michigan has secured more federal research funding to study firearm injury prevention than any other U.S. university. We house the nation’s largest collection of firearm datasets.
“We are leading an NIH-funded consortium of more than 25 researchers across 12 universities and health systems to study firearm safety among children and teens. And we have the excellence and commitment to our public mission to address this crisis.
“Today, the University of Michigan is launching a Firearm Injury Prevention Research Initiative to develop new knowledge and data on firearm violence.”
U-M is establishing a steering committee consisting of faculty, staff and students from the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses to identify ways to best catalyze firearm-injury prevention research and scholarship.
The university also is appointing an external stakeholder committee to ensure a diversity of perspectives beyond academia, including national representation from gun owners, faith-based and K-12 leadership, law enforcement, rural and urban community groups, firearm violence survivors and families.
This type of collaborative approach is essential, as firearm-related injuries resulted in nearly 40,000 deaths across the United States in 2017.
“We are working to decrease firearm injuries, and there’s a very good precedent across injury-prevention science that we can decrease those injuries without limiting the number of firearms, all while respecting Second Amendment rights,” said Rebecca Cunningham, interim vice president for research and director of the U-M Injury Prevention Center.
The initiative builds upon the university’s strengths in firearm-injury prevention research. U-M has secured more federal research funding to study firearm-injury prevention than any other U.S. university, totaling more than $6.5 million since 2017.
The School of Public Health announced plans this week to house a $6 million multidisciplinary, multi-institutional center that will provide schools with training and technical assistance to prevent school violence and serve as a national research and training center on school safety.
The university last year received $5 million from the National Institutes of Health to lead a national consortium of 25 researchers that aims to address firearm deaths among U.S. children and teens through an injury prevention approach.
The consortium, consisting largely of U-M researchers, is exploring best practices for health care providers to counsel families about safe firearm storage, interventions to decrease firearm suicide risk among rural teen households, and the effect of state firearm laws on school shootings.
U-M also operates the nation’s largest collection of firearm datasets, which features information ranging from school shootings to crime victim surveys that researchers can access to further study gun violence.
By creating stronger infrastructure for research, educational activities and community outreach related to firearm-injury prevention, U-M can better address the complexity of this public health threat by integrating the perspectives of multiple disciplines to find solutions.
“Firearms were the No. 1 cause of death for high-school-aged children in 2017, and in Michigan over the past decade, guns have killed more people than opioids,” said Cunningham, who has authored more than 45 scholarly publications on firearm injury prevention.
“Serious public health problems, like motor vehicle crashes, have turned to scientific evidence to prevent injuries, and firearms should be no different. Much more can be done to address this problem, and so through this initiative, we can harness campuswide research and community partnerships to inform policies that better protect people.”