Fund for a Safer Future funds a portfolio of research projects seeking to answer the question: What works to prevent gun violence?
Philanthropic support for research is critical because of limits on federal funding for gun violence prevention research. FSF-funded research projects have demonstrated the effectiveness of state firearm removal policies; quantified the relationship between substance abuse and firearm violence; and developed new and important insights about the characteristics of illegal gun markets.
- Demonstrate the effectiveness of gun violence prevention policies.
- Quantify the risk and protective factors for firearm violence.
- Provide insights about the characteristics of gun-related injuries and deaths.
FSF Research Grants
Effectiveness of Extreme Risk Laws in Connecticut and Indiana
Researchers at Duke University studied the effectiveness of “extreme risk laws” in Connecticut and Indiana; these laws create a civil legal process to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who present an acute risk to themselves or others. In both Connecticut and Indiana, researchers found that for every 10 to 20 firearm removals carried out via extreme risk laws, there was one suicide averted. This evidence has become a cornerstone of recent efforts to expand extreme risk laws across the country.
- Swanson, J.W. et al. (2017). Implementation and Effectiveness of Connecticut’s Risk-Based Gun Removal Law: Does it Prevent Suicides?. Law and Contemporary Problems, 80(2), 179-208.
- Swanson, J.W. et al. (2019). Criminal Justice and Suicide Outcomes with Indiana’s Risk-Based Gun Seizure Law. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 47(2), 188- 197.
Juvenile Delinquency and Adult Gun Sales
Researchers at Duke University are attempting to study the impact of different minimum age requirements for firearm purchase and possession by former juvenile offenders. By following populations of juvenile offenders in these states over the course of ten years, the researchers will measure whether and how these minimum age laws impact rates of firearm violence and firearm suicide within the studied populations. Ultimately, the research is intended to inform future state-level reform efforts for minimum-age standards, which may offer a policy lever to prevent future gun violence among the at-risk population of juvenile offenders.
Effects of Permitless Concealed Carry Laws on Violent Crime
Researchers from John Hopkins University are examining the impact of permitless concealed carry laws on violent crime rates to understand: 1) the impact of permitless concealed carry on rates of violent crime (homicide, robbery, and aggravated assault), and 2) the ways that permitless concealed carry can influence the trajectory of interpersonal altercations towards more violent outcomes. This empirical assessment of permitless concealed carry laws will provide policymakers with key data about the laws’ impact on public safety.
Criminal Background Characteristics of Homicide Perpetrators and Victims and Suicide Decedents
Prohibiting individuals convicted of certain crimes from purchasing and possessing firearms is a central tenet of gun violence prevention in the US. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin were able to test the idea that expanding firearm prohibitions would impact firearm access as connected to gun deaths. In this work, researchers found that expanding prohibition criteria — including those convicted of violent or multiple misdemeanors, multiple DUIs, or under temporary domestic violence restraining orders — disqualified an additional 23% of those involved in gun deaths in Wisconsin from firearm access.
- Hernandez-Meier JL, Akert B, Zheng C, et al. (2019). Status of legal firearm possession and violent deaths: methods and protocol for a retrospective case-control study. Injury Prevention, 25, i49-i58.
The National Firearms Survey
Researchers at Northeastern University (in collaboration with Harvard University) conducted the 2015 National Firearms Survey (NFS) — a landmark study essential to contemporary gun violence prevention research and policy reform efforts. Key findings in these articles — from estimates of the US civilian gun stock (265 million guns) to the revealing fact that half of U.S gun stock is concentrated within 3% of US adults — were disseminated through academic conferences across the country and featured widely in national media coverage.
- Betz ME, Azrael D, Barber C, Miller M. (2016). Public Opinion Regarding Whether Speaking with Patients About Firearms Is Appropriate: Results of a National Survey. Ann Intern Med., 165(8), 543-550.
- Wolfson J, Teret S, Frattaroli S, Miller M, Azrael D. (2016). Willingness to purchase childproof guns: findings from the 2015 National Firearms Survey. Am J Public Health, 106(3), 411-413.
- Azrael D, Hepburn L, Hemenway D, Miller M. (2017). The Stock and Flow of US Firearms: Results from the 2015 National Firearms Survey. Russell Sage Foundation Journal of Social Science, 3(5), 38-57.
- Hemenway D, Azrael D, Miller M. (2017). Selling a gun to a stranger without a background check: acceptable behavior? Injury Prevention, 4(3), 213-217.
- Miller M, Hepburn L, Azrael D. (2017). Firearm acquisitions without background checks: Results of a national survey. Annals of Internal Medicine, 166(4), 233-239.
- Wolfson J, Teret S, Azrael D, Miller M. (2017). US Public Opinion on Carrying Firearms in Public Places. Am J Public Health, 107(6), 929-937.
- Hemenway D, Azrael D, Miller M. (2017). Whose guns are stolen: the epidemiology of gun theft victims. Inj Epidemiol., 4, 11.
- Rowhani-Rahbar A, Azrael D, Lyons V, Simonetti J, Miller M. (2017). Loaded Handgun Carrying Among US Adults, 2015. Am. J Public Health, 107(12), 1930-1936.
- Rowhani-Rahbar A, Lyons VH, Simonetti JA, Azrael D, Miller M. (2018). Formal Firearm Training Among Adults in the United States: Results of a National Survey. Injury Prevention, 24, 161-165.
The National Firearms Survey Supplemental Results
Building upon the success of their initial grant, researchers at Northeastern University used this additional grant to examine firearm storage practices in homes with children who may be at risk of self- harm; to examine firearm storage practices of Veterans who are at an elevated risk for suicide; and to measure gun owners’ beliefs in the suicide risk imposed by household firearms. Here researchers found that at least 4.5 million children in the US live in households in which at least one gun is not safely stored.
- Cleveland E, Azrael D, Simonetti J, Miller M. (2017). Firearm ownership among US Veterans: findings from a national survey. Injury Epidemiology, 4(1), 33.
- Conner A, Azrael D, Miller M. (2017). Beliefs about the relationship between firearm availability and suicide: Results from a national survey. Annals of Internal Medicine, 168(2), 153-155.
- Scott J, Azrael D, Miller M. (2018). Firearm Storage in Homes with Children with Self-Harm Risk Factors. Pediatrics, 141(3).
- Simonetti J, Azrael D, Miller M. (2018). Firearm Storage Practices and Risk Perceptions Among a Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. Veterans With and Without Self‐Harm Risk Factors. Suicide Life Threat Behav., 49(3), 653-664.
- Simonetti J, Azrael D, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Miller M. (2018). Firearm storage practices among American Veterans. Am J Prev Med., 55(4), 445-454.
- Azrael D, Cohen J, Salhi C, Miller M. (2018). Firearm storage in gun owning households with children: Results of a 2015 National Survey. Journal of Urban Health, 95(3), 295–304.
- Wertz J, Azrael D, Hemenway D, Sorenson S, Miller M. (2018). Differences Between New and Long-Standing Gun Owners: Results from a National Survey. Am. J Public Health., 108, 871–877.
2019 National Firearm Survey
Researchers at Northeastern University (in collaboration with the Harvard Injury Control Research Center) designed, piloted, and conducted the 2019 National Firearm Survey. Among other things, the 2019 survey will: 1) test past assumptions and conflicting research results on the effect of child access prevention (CAP) laws on gun owners’ storage practices; 2) examine the impact of lethal means counseling (counseling on the connection between household gun ownership and firearm injury and death, by a medical provider) on gun owners’ storage practices; and 3) analyze youth access to firearms in homes where gun owners report locking up their firearms. The information contained in the 2019 National Firearm Survey, like past national firearm surveys, will serve as the authoritative guide to the attitudes and behaviors of gun owners in the US
State Gun Laws and the Movement of Crime Guns Between States
Researchers at Providence College studied the effects of discrepancies in state gun laws on the flow of crime guns between states. The researchers identified five state laws that were shown to reduce the export of crime guns: laws requiring the inspection of federally licensed firearms dealers; laws requiring permits or licenses for gun purchases; mandatory waiting periods for purchases of guns from licensed dealers; required reporting of lost or stolen guns; and laws granting local authorities discretion in whether or not to issue a concealed carry permit.
- Kahane L. (2019). State Gun Laws and the Movement of Crime Guns between States. International Review of Law and Economics 61.
Longitudinal Study of Handgun Ownership and Transfer (LongSHOT)
Researchers at Stanford University set out to create a “cohort” (a database of individuals who experienced common events over a certain period of time) with which to study the effect of gun ownership on firearm deaths. With LongSHOT, researchers will be able to determine whether there is a causal connection between firearm ownership and firearm mortality using the most complete and robust data to date. Researchers have published details on how they assembled the cohort, as a guide for other gun violence prevention researchers in pursuit of similar research aims.
Gun Violence in Urban America: Understanding Illegal Gun Markets
Researchers at the University of Chicago Crime Lab conducted the largest and most comprehensive study of the underground gun market in cities across the US in order to better understand the types and sources of crime guns. The research findings underscore that, even in states with relatively strong gun laws, there are robust secondary markets for guns, which provide the majority of guns recovered at crime scenes. Published at a time when much national attention was focused on the rates of gun violence in Chicago, the research shed light on the dynamics of gun violence in cities, and suggested what can be done to disrupt it.
- Braga A, Hureau D. (2015). Strong Gun Laws Are Not Enough: The Need for Improved Enforcement of Secondhand Gun Transfer Laws in Massachusetts. Preventative Medicine, 79, 37-42.
- Cook P et al. (2015). Some Sources Of Crime Guns In Chicago: Dirty Dealers, Straw Purchasers, And Traffickers. J. Crim. L. & Criminology, 104(4), 717-760.
Alcohol Abuse as a Risk Factor for Violent or Firearm-related Crime
Researchers at the University of California Davis examined the relationship between alcohol abuse and misuse and the risk for future violence among firearm owners in California. Building on a body of research on the relationship between firearms and alcohol, this was the first study to specifically examine the relationship between alcohol abuse and violent crime among legal firearm owners — a population with known access to firearms. Ultimately, the researchers determined that a history of alcohol abuse was the single greatest predictor of future violence in this firearm-owning population, even more so than a prior history of violence.
- Wintemute GJ, Wright MA, Castillo-Carniglia A, et al. (2018). Firearms, alcohol and crime: convictions for driving under the influence (DUI) and other alcohol-related crimes and risk for future criminal activity among authorized purchasers of handguns, Injury Prevention, 24, 68-72.
Evaluation of California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order Policy
Researchers at the University of California Davis sought to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of California’s extreme risk law by analyzing extreme risk case files, in particular those cases in which an individual threatened to commit a mass shooting. An analysis of 159 of 414 extreme risk laws issued in California between 2016-2018 identified 21 cases in which an individual appeared to pose a risk of committing a mass shooting, had access or would soon have access to firearms, and a judge issued a gun violence restraining order as a result. At the time of the analysis’s publication (August 2019), a review of news reports indicated that there have been no mass shootings, homicides, or suicides by the individuals who were the subject of those 21 cases, suggesting that extreme risk laws can be an effective intervention to prevent mass shootings.
- Wintemute GJ, Pear VA, Schleimer JP, et al. (2019). Extreme Risk Protection Orders Intended to Prevent Mass Shootings: A Case Series. Ann Intern Med., 171, 655–658.
Using Firearm Purchasing Patterns to Predict Future Firearm Violence
Researchers at the University of California Davis are attempting to develop a threat assessment tool that uses data on an individual’s firearm purchases to predict future involvement in firearm violence. This analysis is meant to help identify individuals at risk of future firearm violence through their firearm purchasing patterns. As such, researchers hope the threat assessment tool may be used to prevent incidents of gun violence, especially mass shootings.
Firearms and Intimate Partner Violence in Philadelphia
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania studied the use of guns in cases of intimate partner violence (IPV), and the extent to which law enforcement have complied with existing gun removal policies when summoned to IPV scenes. Federal law and Pennsylvania state law prohibit firearm purchase and possession by individuals under domestic violence restraining orders or by those convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, but there is little known about the implementation of these laws. Using data on all IPV cases to which police were summoned in Philadelphia, the research team was able to identify major gaps in law enforcement’s compliance with federal and state firearm removal laws.
- Sorenson S. (2017). Guns in Intimate Partner Violence: Comparing Incidents by Type of Weapon. Journal of Women’s Health, 26(3), 249-258.
Engaging Communities in Gun Violence Prevention
The Urban Institute organized four convenings across the United States examining the disproportionate and devastating impacts of gun violence in communities of color. The report, co-published by the Urban Institute, the Joyce Foundation, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, offered key findings on the nature and dynamics of gun violence in communities of color, including the disproportionate impact of assaultive gun violence on black Americans, and the ways in which a very small number of individuals account for the majority of assaultive gun violence in any given community.
- Bieler S et al. (2016). Engaging Communities in Reducing Gun Violence: A Road Map for Safer Communities.