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NORC Expert Panel outlines recommendations for creating a firearms data infrastructure in new report

Today the NORC Expert Panel on Firearms Data Infrastructure released a report with recommendations for the federal, state, and local government to improve firearms data collection and help save lives. The report describes the significant limitations in the U.S. federal system of data for understanding gun violence and presents detailed action steps to address these problems, including where each effort should be located, timing for implementation, and potential impact on policy and practice.

The recommendations outlined in the report describe changes in data reporting where there is both a substantial need for the change a, clear path to implementation and a mechanism to improve public health,” said John K. Roman, PhD, senior fellow in the Economics, Justice, and Society department at NORC. Any reasoned debate on firearms policy requires a shared set of facts, and we believe these improvements to firearms data infrastructure can help to establish those facts.”

Commissioned by Arnold Ventures and staffed by NORC at the University of Chicago, the independent Expert Panel convened three times over the course of nearly a year and includes 14 distinguished academics, government leaders, and trailblazing practitioners whose charge was to create a blueprint” for a better firearms data infrastructure.

There are deep deficiencies in our federal system of gun violence data,” said Nancy Potok, former Chief Statistician of the United States and current member of the NORC Expert Panel. Reducing the number of firearm suicides, homicides, accidents and assaults in the United States requires us to answer fundamental questions that we cannot answer today.”

Blueprint for a U.S. Firearms Data Infrastructure is the last of three reports generated by the Expert Panel. The two additional reports produced by these experts in firearms, gun violence, and public health are The State of Firearms Data in 2019 and A Conceptual Framework for a Firearms Data Infrastructure.

Despite the obvious need for accurate data on firearms ownership, use, and storage to inform effective public health strategies, there is no official data on firearms ownership,” said Asheley Van Ness, director of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures. Our goal with this report is to remove a roadblock to informed policymaking around firearm violence guided by rigorous, objective, and transparent evidence.”

Expert Panel Recommendations for the Federal Government

  1. Create valid and reliable administrative data systems for tracking nonfatal gunshot injuries.
  2. Facilitate implementation of the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) by creating a feasible, well-designed technical assistance and support system to law enforcement entities.
  3. Annual survey of firearms ownership, acquisition, and storage practices.
  4. Create a model firearms data sharing platform within the federal government.
  5. Set up an interagency working group around data to create federal partnerships to address specific infrastructure gaps (that are not just reporting mechanisms).
  6. Create specific guidance to improve timeliness of federal data.
  7. Create specific guidance to improve consistency and timeliness of criminal justice history reporting for use in background checks.
  8. Create specific guidance and recommended strategies for supporting the development and use of data collection/​data use agreements based on best practice in implementation science.
  9. Create resources and best practice guides for local and state governments to facilitate the integration of health, social service, criminal justice, and other data on victims and perpetrators of firearm injury and misuse.
  10. Improvements to the gun ownership and use data files.
  11. Improve the Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI).
  12. Increase federal data accessibility.
  13. Integrate federal public health data and criminal justice data on firearms.

Expert Panel Recommendations for Local and State Governments

  1. Create a climate of transparency around local and state firearms data.
  2. Establish pilot projects linking public health and criminal justice data to show the feasibility of data sharing and data transparency initiatives.
  3. Facilitate the development of regional working groups of violence prevention teams of health care professionals, public health, gun owners, and law enforcement, with the goal of strategizing about eradicating data usage problems at the local level and to troubleshoot about implementation.
  4. Support the adoption of state equivalents to the federal Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (Evidence Act).


About NORC at the University of Chicago

NORC at the University of Chicago is an objective, non-partisan research institution that delivers reliable data and rigorous analysis to guide critical programmatic, business, and policy decisions. Since 1941, NORC has conducted groundbreaking studies, created and applied innovative methods and tools, and advanced principles of scientific integrity and collaboration. Today, government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world partner with NORC to transform increasingly complex information into useful knowledge.


About Arnold Ventures

Arnold Ventures is a philanthropy dedicated to tackling some of the most pressing problems in the United States. We invest in sustainable change, building it from the ground up based on research, deep thinking, and a strong foundation of evidence. We drive public conversation, craft policy, and inspire action through education and advocacy.


Contact: For more information, contact Eric Young for NORC at young-​eric@​norc.​org or (703) 2176814 (cell) and Evan Mintz at (713) 5541974 for Arnold Ventures.