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Houston — The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced $20 million in support for a multi-year research effort on gun-related violence, in an effort to catalyze much-needed funding from the federal government.

The foundation’s commitment will help launch and support a National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research, which will be overseen by RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan organization respected for its high-quality, objective research.

Over the next five years, research sponsored by the collaborative will seek data-driven answers on the causes and patterns of gun-related violence in the United States. Based on scientific evidence, the work will help policymakers craft evidence-based policies to reduce gun violence.

“Understandably, gun violence is a deeply emotional issue. But arguing about the proper response will not solve the problem. Our goal is to provide objective information to guide a rational, fact-based response to a national crisis,” said Laura Arnold, co-chair of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. “We need data, not politics or emotion, to drive our decisions.”

Op-ed: Want to fund gun research? Ask for private donations

The National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research will oversee the dissemination of key research findings to a wide variety of audiences. Financial support for the collaborative will come from LJAF’s $20 million investment, along with an additional $30 million expected from fellow philanthropic organizations.

The funding comes as the federal government has virtually abandoned research into gun violence. The Journal of the American Medical Association said last year that from 2004 to 2015, federal 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 National Collaborative’s research agenda will build on agendas developed by RAND and the National Academies. It will include these areas of interest, among others:

  • Characteristics of gun violence (How are guns purchased? How do changes in ownership occur? How are guns used? What are the differences in fatal and nonfatal gun use?)
  • Risk and protective factors (What are the impacts of youth having access to, possessing, and carrying guns? What are the potential risks and benefits of having a gun in the house? What factors increase the probability of gun violence?)
  • Gun violence interventions (Can we more effectively prevent violence-prone people from accessing guns? Which, if any, childhood education or prevention programs reduce gun violence in childhood and in later life? Do programs to physically improve high-crime areas work to decrease gun violence?)

“The lack of data and solid research in this critical area is truly startling,” said Jeremy Travis, LJAF’s executive vice president of criminal justice.

For instance, according to news reports, there are few recent national studies of who owns guns, how gun owners acquired their weapons, the theft of guns, the number of households with guns or the risk factors associated with gun violence.

“Unfortunately, government research has been stymied for more than two decades, and that gap hasn’t been adequately addressed by the private sector,” Travis said. “As with other public health challenges, the crisis of gun violence will be effectively addressed only if we produce high-quality, objective research. We believe that funding this research will save lives.”

RAND was chosen to help administer the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research because of the organization’s deep technical knowledge of gun policy science and its ongoing Gun Policy in America initiative.

“Discussions about the best ways to reduce gun violence—suicides, homicides, and accidental injuries—should be based on facts and rigorous, objective analysis,” said Michael D. Rich, president and CEO of RAND. “The National Collaborative is an important step toward building the evidence base needed for constructive debates and effective policymaking.”

The National Collaborative will form a Research Advisory Committee, likely made up of representatives from law enforcement, government, community, education, health, the private sector, and academia, to help shape the research agenda and choose rigorous, policy-relevant research.

Every day in the United States, close to 100 people are killed by guns, and for every death, two more are injured. According to independent reports, the gun-related murder rate in the U.S. is 25 times higher than the rate in 22 other high-income nations.