Firearm injuries and violence - gun suicides, gun homicides and assaults, gun accidents, and mass shootings - are a public health crisis that continues to plague the nation. Every day over 300 US residents are shot with a firearm, and every few weeks a mass shooting injures and kills dozens of our citizens. These shootings are clear public health threats and consume an enormous amount of clinical, hospital, health department, and morgue resources across the nation, ultimately costing the nation at least $200 billion each year, including expenses for emergency, surgical and medical care.
The NIH is the largest scientific funding agency on the planet. To date however, its investment in the study and prevention of firearm injury and violence has been miniscule - 1 major NIH research grant for the roughly 1,000,000 cases of firearm injury that occur in the US per decade. Firearm injury is a pathophysiologic and biomedical process requiring the attention of the medical, surgical, and coronial systems in the US, just like other disease entities. The acute public health crisis of opioid overdose deaths prompted Congress to appropriate over $3 billion, including $500 million for research. A proportionate investment at NIH could greatly increase our understanding of firearm injury and violence and lead to programs of treatment and prevention that would produce meaningful results for the nation within a short number of years, much in the same way the NIH has done so for other public heath crises and diseases, such as opioids, cancer, HIV, and others.
Accordingly, we are now asking that NIH:
(1) By 2020, the NIH issue a new multidisciplinary, multi-year Program Announcement and Request for Proposals involving at least 10 Institute/Center co-sponsors, and calling for the study, prevention, and treatment of firearm injuries and violence as public health and biomedical concerns;
(2) By 2021, the NIH institute a new multidisciplinary Scientific Review Group at the Center for Scientific Review with a focus on the scientific study, prevention, and treatment of firearm injuries and violence as public health and biomedical concerns;
(3) By 2022, the NIH distribute $100 million in competitive extramural research funding for the study, prevention, and treatment of firearm injuries and violence as public health and biomedical concerns.
While multiple private funders and foundations are just now recognizing the need to provide scientific funding to study and prevent the US crisis of firearm violence, Congressional testimony earlier this year stated that "we know little about gun violence and its prevention compared to other safety and health threats, because the federal government has not had a comprehensive program of research in these areas for decades". While welcome, the resources of non-federal agencies is and will continue to be inadequate in the absence of federal scientific investment in firearm violence research and prevention, in which the NIH is ostensibly our biggest opportunity to have a meaningful impact on this terrible public health crisis that directly affects well over 100,000 civilians, and indirectly affects millions more, in the US each year.
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Lopez G. Congress's Omnibus Bill Adds $3.3 Billion to Fight the Opioid Crisis. It's Not Enough. Vox, March 22, 2018.
Morrall A. Reducing Disagreements on Gun Policy Through Scientific Research and an Improved Data Infrastructure. Testimony presented before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, RAND Corporation, March 7, 2019.
Charles C. Branas, PhD
Gelman Endowed Professor and Chair of EpidemiologyColumbia Scientific Union for the Reduction of Gun ViolenceColumbia University Mailman School of Public HealthContact