Why We Need to Research Gun Violence

School Shooting Student Activists

Gun violence has reached a 40-year high. Yet research funding has been virtually absent for over 20 years. 

Here are a few of the many reasons why gun violence research is so important:

Gun violence research funding is virtually nonexistent at the federal level.

The federal government plays a unique role in studying major public health problems in America. From cancer to car crashes, federally funded research has revealed solutions that have enabled lawmakers to pass laws that save lives.

For example, when doctors sounded alarm bells about the rise of deaths and injuries from car accidents in the 1950s, Congress funded research to study the problem. That research showed that safety measures like seat belts save lives, which led to the first national seat belt law in 1968. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that seat belts have saved more than a quarter million lives since.

Gun violence receives less research funding per death than any other leading cause of death.

But for gun violence, a lack of federal funding has meant a dearth of research. For every 100,000 deaths caused by diabetes, there are 17,836 studies published. For every 100,000 people who die from gun violence, that figure is only 450. More research would help bolster our knowledge of the gun safety measures most likely to save lives.

Gun violence is a leading cause of death, but isn’t funded like one.

Most causes of death receive research funding proportional to their burden. Gun violence is an exception.

America’s gun violence crisis claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 people in 2017, ranking among other leading causes of death. So why doesn’t the government study gun violence? Short answer: the NRA.

In 1996, the NRA bullied Congress into taking away dedicated federal funding for gun violence research from the CDC. For more than 20 years, federal investment in gun violence research has remained virtually absent at the nation’s leading health protection agency, despite rising levels of gun violence.

If gun violence research was funded at the level of other leading causes of death, it would receive 64 times its current level of funding. We should be funding gun violence research in a way that reflects the severity of the problem.

Gun violence is expensive.

Annual cost of gun violence: $229 billion. Annual fereral investment in gun violence research: less than $2 million.

Our gun violence crisis takes an immeasurable human toll, and it’s also a major financial burden. Every year, gun violence costs the American economy $229 billion. Many of these costs come at taxpayer expense, further exacerbating the devastating impact of gun violence on communities across the country. Despite this enormous cost, the federal government spends less than $2 million on gun violence research each year.

To lower both the human and economic costs of gun violence, our legislators should invest in research to help us better understand the problems and reveal the most effective solutions.

It’s time for the federal government to fund research into this public safety crisis.

76% of Americnas support funding for gun violence research.

When automobile deaths started rising in the 1950s, Congress didn’t ban cars—it passed reasonable laws informed by important research findings. We need to apply a similar approach to understanding and addressing our nation’s gun violence epidemic.

Funding gun violence research has broad, bipartisan support. Now it’s time for Congress to act. That’s why we’ve teamed up with a coalition of medical and public health groups to make sure that happens.

We’re making progress. The House appropriations bill includes $50 million for gun violence research, and 35 US senators are calling for the same. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to block these efforts. Please contact your lawmakers and make sure they know how much of a priority this issue is:

Text RESEARCH to 90975 to demand your lawmakers support gun violence research funding.


Data on federal research funding was provided by David Stark. Graphics and data analysis were compiled with the help of the Center for American Progress.