More than 100,000 Americans are killed or injured by firearms each year. Despite this ongoing crisis of public health and safety, policymakers often lack objective information about gun violence in the United States. Firearms data infrastructure is limited, opaque, and not calibrated or shared across state, local, and federal governments. Without systemic collection of data, it is difficult to craft effective and constitutional policies that can reduce the number of firearm deaths and injuries, whether from accidents, violent crime or suicides.
The Firearm Inquiry (FIST) Program is one of the few federal initiatives charged with collecting information about firearms. FIST produces fundamental information about the number of background checks performed each year for firearm transfers or permits. However, FIST has not issued a report since 2017. Earlier this year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice issued a call for comments on reinstating the FIST program.
Arnold Ventures and NORC at University of Chicago have issued a joint public letter calling on the Department of Justice not only to reinstate the FIST program, but also to expand the data collected and audit the underlying National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). These changes will help to address problems within U.S. firearms data infrastructure, as discussed in the NORC Expert Panel on Firearms Data Infrastructure report “A Blueprint for a U.S. Firearms Data Infrastructure.”
See below for the public comments from AV and NORC.