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Building a National Firearms Data Infrastructure

Spent gun casings on the floor at a gun range for target practice
Reliable data hold the key to better policymaking
  • Client
    Arnold Ventures LLC
  • Dates
    Round 1: 2019 - 2020
    Round 2: 2020 - 2021

This project is part of the collection, Implementing Data Infrastructure to Reduce Firearms Violence.

Problem

A critical lack of data around firearms violence hinders effective preventive policies.

In 2021, 48,830 Americans lost their lives to gun-related injuries, the highest toll on record according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Firearms are now the number one cause of death among American children and teens. Yet there is no comprehensive national or state-level plan for gathering and disseminating firearms use and injury data—a void that limits efforts of legislators and policymakers to reduce violence. The country needs a nonpartisan data infrastructure to inform policymaking that improves public safety by reducing the number of firearm accidents, suicides, homicides, and assaults.

Solution

NORC partnered with Arnold Ventures to target ways to improve the U.S. firearms data infrastructure.

NORC’s collaboration with Arnold Ventures, a philanthropy that funds public health research to minimize injustice, began in 2015. The goal of the ongoing partnership is to produce practical guidance for creating a rigorous, objective, and sustainable firearms data architecture that local, state, and federal policymakers and their constituents can use. Over several years, the partnership has launched a multi-pronged effort that included reviewing existing firearms data sources, convening two separate expert panels, and producing comprehensive data infrastructure. This work yielded:

Result

NORC’s work is informing policy and practice related to firearms violence data.

After intensive data collection and research, NORC focused on three areas of improvement that have the power to build a firearms data infrastructure that will substantially reduce gun violence. The top priority is creating a database of nonfatal firearms injuries to fill the near total dearth of this information. Second, policymakers need to combat decades of U.S. government policy banning firearms research. Opening avenues to study the relationship between firearms ownership, storage, and use and suicide, assault, homicide, and accidental injury is critical to developing a more coherent public policy that maximizes public safety. Third, ensuring consistent, accurate data collection and reporting at the local level is essential to the success of any national firearms research database or surveillance system.

“We have been at the front end of saying there are … all kinds of basic things that we don’t have the answer to. And those questions are starting to be answered. I’d like to think that we’ve contributed to a change in the policy environment that allowed these questions to start getting answered.”

Principal Investigator

“We have been at the front end of saying there are … all kinds of basic things that we don’t have the answer to. And those questions are starting to be answered. I’d like to think that we’ve contributed to a change in the policy environment that allowed these questions to start getting answered.”

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