As millions marched against gun violence across the country on Saturday, research by Stanford Health Policy experts about the impact of gun ownership on public health was also in the spotlight.
The Washington Post published an in-depth story about how the work of gun researchers is finally getting attention — an unfortunate consequence of the recent mass shootings in the United States.
David Studdert — a professor of medicine and law — and Yifan Zhang, a biostatics and data analyst with Stanford Health Policy, along with seasoned gun researcher Garen Wintemute of UC Davis’s Violence Prevention Research Program, are trying to answer the question: Are you more or less likely to die if you own a firearm?
“The explosion of national interest in the problem of gun violence since the Parkland shooting has been remarkable,” said Studdert, who is also a core faculty member at Stanford Health Policy. “And it is inspiring to hear students’ voices — that is definitely a new twist in the politics around this issue. I think there is momentum for change, but I remain pessimistic that we will see the enactment of any substantial reforms at the federal level.”
The Post wrote:
Academic researchers who were studying the impact of gun violence on public health were dealt a huge financial and political blow in 1996, when the so-called Dickey Amendment was passed by Congress under pressure from gun lobbyists. The law forbids the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund research that might be seen as advocating for gun control. This choked off federal grant money and essential data-gathering on gun violence.
But tucked into the government spending bill in Congress last week was language that indicates the CDC now has the authority to conduct research on the causes and effects of gun violence. Though gun researchers are skeptical that the change in tone will lead to any significant support or funding, some believe that it’s a start. The $1.3 trillion government funding measure also includes efforts to improve state compliance with the national background check system, as well as funding for school counseling and safety programs.
Again, from The Post story:
Zhang hopes the Stanford team can one day have an impact.
“I think there are going to be some big decisions that the whole country has to make together, and I’m hoping that our research can help provide evidence and information for the decision making,” she said.