Expert Panel Recommendations to Improve Firearms Data Infrastructure
The firearms data environment in the United States is fragmented and disordered. While numerous data sources describe elements of the relationship between firearms and accidental harm, suicides, and criminal violence, there is no coherent national- or state-level plan or structure for gathering and disseminating firearms use and injury data.
To address these deficits, NORC in collaboration with Arnold Ventures, convened the Expert Panel on Firearms Data Infrastructure, which developed a blueprint of conceptual priorities (“A Blueprint for a U.S. Firearms Data Infrastructure”) with key recommendations to improve the firearms data infrastructure. Since the release of the Blueprint, Arnold Ventures funded NORC and a team of nationally recognized experts to draft a series of concept papers to guide the implementation of the Expert Panel’s recommendations. These papers cover three focus areas of the Expert Panel and are now available as an edited volume (“Improving Data Infrastructure to Reduce Firearms Violence,” with an executive summary).
The focus areas are:
- Creating and Implementing a Comprehensive Non-fatal Firearm Injury Database. By consensus, the top priority for improving the U.S. firearms data infrastructure identified by the expert panel was to create valid and reliable administrative data systems for tracking non-fatal gunshot injuries caused by accident, suicide attempt, or criminal act. This paper describes the collection of non-fatal firearms injury data.
Chapter 1: Comprehensive Data on Gun Violence: Current Deficits, Needed Investments. Author: Phil Cook, ITT/Sanford Professor Emeritus of Public Policy and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University*
Chapter 2: Improving the Capacity of Hospital Emergency Department Data Systems to Track Nonfatal Firearm Injuries. Author: Catherine Barber, MPA, is a senior researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Research Center and the founding director of Means Matter*
- Increasing the Quality, Availability, and Usefulness of Firearms Data for Research and Policy. The expert panel of firearms data infrastructure offered several proposals to increase the value of federal expenditures around data collection and analysis. This paper discusses how timely data can be made available and how to facilitate the use of the data by policymakers, researchers, and the public.
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Chapter 4: Studying Firearm Fatalities Using the National Violent Death Reporting System. Author: Steve Marshall, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina and the director of UNC's Injury Prevention Research Center
Chapter 5: Expanding Capacity and Capabilities to Monitor and Research Guns in the United States. Author: Michael Mueller-Smith, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Michigan and a faculty associate at the Population Studies Center*
- Improving Federal Coordination of the Firearms Data Infrastructure. The Expert Panel recommendations included several ideas on improving how the federal government supports better firearms data infrastructure expansions and improvements. This paper details best practices for the integration of existing data sets.
Chapter 7: Practical Steps for Building State Capacity and Infrastructure to Use Data for Evidence-Based Decision Making. Authors: Nancy Potok, PhD, NAPx Consulting and the former Chief Statistician of the United States* and Nick Hart, PhD, President of the Data Foundation
Improving Data Infrastructure to Reduce Firearms Violence
NORC, the Data Foundation, Arnold Ventures, and the National Prevention Science Coalition jointly hosted a webinar in 2021. The virtual event featured six brief presentations and nine speakers.
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“We can’t have shared solutions until we have shared facts. We can’t have shared facts until we have rigorous, transparent and objective data. And we have a system that is distributed. Each of America’s 18,600 local law enforcement agencies collects its own data. And is under no mandate from the federal government to report those data.”