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Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review

NCJ Number
Charles F. Wellford, John V. Pepper, Carol V. Petries
Date Published
340 pages
This book assesses the strengths and limitations of current databases relevant to the link between firearms and violence, examines current research on firearm use and efforts to reduce unjustified firearm use, and suggests ways to improve the latter.
The Committee to Improve Research Information and Data on Firearms, which produced this book, was charged with providing an assessment of the strengths and limitations of the existing research and data on gun violence. One theme evident throughout the report is the relative absence of credible data that are central to answering the most basic questions about the link between firearms and violence, such as the effects of firearms on violence and the impacts of various violence-control policies. The inadequacy of data on gun ownership and use is among the most critical barriers to better understanding gun violence. The committee recommends a research effort to determine whether or not these kinds of data can be accurately collected with minimal risk to legitimate privacy concerns. Further, the committee recommends that for research purposes appropriate access be given to data maintained by regulatory and law enforcement agencies, including the trace data maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; registration data maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and State agencies; and firearms manufacturing and sales data. Further, there are difficult methodological issues regarding how various datasets might be used to address the complex causal issues of interest. The committee recommends that a methodological research program be established to address these problems. Regarding the focus of research on firearms and violence, the committee recommends further individual-level studies of the link between firearms and both lethal and nonlethal suicidal behavior. Other research recommendations pertain to deterrence and defense and interventions to reduce violence and suicide. Chapter references and tables and a subject index