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Arnold Ventures Renews Commitment to Gun Policy Research

As the gun policy landscape continues to shift dramatically, policymakers, advocates, and communities need robust legal scholarship and solid information to guide effective gun safety policy.

Multiple hand guns on display for sale with red tags.
Leon Neal/Getty Images

In the wake of the Uvalde elementary school massacre and other mass shootings, last year Congress passed the first meaningful piece of gun safety legislation in decades. However, this bipartisan success was overshadowed by the Supreme Court’s New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen decision a few days earlier. That ruling struck down New York’s century-old concealed carry law and, in doing so, introduced a new historical precedent” standard for reviewing gun regulation. The Bruen decision has created significant uncertainty around the constitutional validity of many gun regulations and has already sparked numerous legal challenges.

Amid this rapidly changing legislative and legal landscape, Arnold Ventures is reaffirming its commitment to building the gun policy evidence base. In 2018, AV made a groundbreaking investment in gun violence research, helping to create the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research (NCGVR). At the same time, AV announced a partnership with the RAND Corporation’s Gun Policy in America (GPIA) initiative to ensure the development of rigorous research to support fair and effective gun safety policies. 

AV is now continuing its commitment to advancing the knowledge of firearms policy and is renewing its support for the GPIA. With this continued support, RAND will publish two future updates to the cutting-edge Science of Gun Policy, which systematically reviews decades of scientific evidence on the effects of firearm laws and makes certain policy recommendations.

AV’s investment in gun violence prevention research has been transformative for our work at RAND, and for the field as a whole.
Andrew Morral director of the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research

For instance, in the recently released 3rd edition, GPIA established there is supportive evidence (their highest rating of reliability) that shall-issue concealed carry laws — those that require jurisdictions to issue a concealed weapons permit if an applicant meets established state criteria — are associated with increased firearm homicides and total homicides. As such, the report suggested that states with shall-issue laws consider pairing them with certain training or handling requirements. 

As courts define with greater clarity the firearms laws that are constitutional within the Bruen framework, GPIA will remain an important resource for the scientific evidence on their effectiveness.

AV’s investment in gun violence prevention research has been transformative for our work at RAND, and for the field as a whole,” said Andrew Morral, director of the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research. We are excited to continue this collaboration to identify facts about the effects of gun policies that will help guide individuals and policymakers in their decisions about how to manage guns safely, fairly, and effectively.”

Bruen also places much greater emphasis on legal scholarship. AV is pleased to support the important work of the Duke Center for Firearms Law. Launched in 2019 by professors Joseph Blocher and Darrell Miller to advance nonpartisan scholarship about the Second Amendment, the center has focused on addressing central issues such as the expansion of gun rights outside the home, racial justice implications of gun law enforcement, and tensions that can arise between gun rights and other constitutional rights like speech and assembly.

With AV’s support, the Center will unpack the implications of the Bruen decision, suggest doctrinal rules and frameworks, and clarify which government interventions are consistent with the Second Amendment after Bruen. The Center will hold conferences and symposia with a variety of stakeholders, expand its now vital Repository of Historical Gun Laws, and develop and publish Second Amendment legal primers, video lessons, and reading lists through its website.

At this time of broad uncertainty about the current state and future direction of the Second Amendment, we’re deeply grateful to Arnold Ventures for generously supporting our mission to provide balanced and reliable information on firearms law for lawyers, policy makers and the interested public,” Miller said.

AV is making these commitments because it believes that the need for research evaluating the effectiveness of gun policies has not been diminished by the Bruen decision.

Balanced legal scholarship combined with a growing body of scientific evidence on the effects of gun policies will help lawmakers and the courts navigate this changing landscape.
Asheley Van Ness director of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures

More so than ever, policymakers will need to know what the likely effects of different gun policies are. But for empirical evidence to continue to play a role in gun policy decisions, a focus will need to be on identifying historical analogues for modern laws and connecting them to the research data, something that up to now has not been a major consideration for jurisdictions looking to enact or defend gun laws.

Since the Bruen decision, there have already been several legal challenges to existing gun regulations in communities around the country. And some lower courts are voicing frustration about the lack of historical guidance and expressing an interest in legal scholarship clarifying how Bruen’s historical framework will function in practice. 

Balanced legal scholarship combined with a growing body of scientific evidence on the effects of gun policies will help lawmakers and the courts navigate this changing landscape,” said Asheley Van Ness, director of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures. AV is proud of the role we have played in supporting the reinvigoration of gun policy research and legal scholarship. These new projects reflect our continuing commitment to advancing fair and equitable solutions to our nation’s gun violence epidemic.”