Basic Gun Violence Research Is Seriously Underfunded

NEW YORK (AP) — Amid the bloodbaths of 21st-century America, you might think that there would be a lot of research into the causes of gun violence, and which policies work best against it.

You would be wrong.

Gun interests, wary of any possible limits on weaponry, have successfully lobbied for limitations on government research and funding, and private sources have not filled the breach. So funding for basic gun violence research and data collection remains minuscule — the annual sum total for all gun violence research projects appears to be well under $5 million. A grant for a single study in areas like autism, cancer or HIV can be more than twice that much.

There are public health students who want to better understand rising gun-related suicide rates, recent explosions in firearm murders in many U.S. cities, and mass murders like the one this month at an Oregon community college, where a lone gunman killed nine people.

But many young researchers are staying away from the field. Some believe there’s little hope Congress will do anything substantive to reduce gun violence, regardless of what scientists find. And the work is stressful — many who study gun violence report receiving angry emails and death threats from believers in unrestricted gun ownership.

Most importantly, there’s simply not enough money.

Gregory Tung is a sharp young scientist who trained at Johns Hopkins University with some of the nation’s leading gun violence researchers. He’s fascinated by gun violence, and the mountain of unanswered questions about why it may be surging and how to prevent it.

But he’s not becoming a gun violence researcher himself.

“From a self-preservation standpoint, I think about, is there enough funding to support this kind of work? And there’s just not,” said Tung, who is now an assistant professor at the Colorado School of Public Health in —> Read More