Gaps in evidence: Gun violence in America

News stories about the problem of gun violence in America have dominated media outlets across the country over the past year.  The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut continues to fuel an on-going debate about the laws surrounding violence and safety in our society. It’s a sensitive subject, and many people across the nation hold opposing viewpoints about what should be done. But one thing is clear: gun violence is a critical public health problem.

Here at EBL, we want to know what the evidence says about the best ways to keep people safe. So we were interested to find a new report from the U.S. Institute of Medicine and National Research Council about the evidence surrounding gun violence.

The report doesn’t offer solutions because, unfortunately, we don’t have enough evidence to know what works. Instead, the report proposes research priorities to improve our understanding of the public health aspects of gun-related violence.

“The complexity and frequency of gun-related violence combined with its impact on the health and safety of the nation’s residents make it a topic of considerable public health importance,” said Alan Leshner, chair of the study committee and CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  The government has taken similar approaches to address the problems of tobacco use, accidental poisoning, and motor vehicle fatalities – with significant success, he said.

The report concludes that significant progress can be achieved in three to five years through a research program that addresses five topics:

  • The characteristics of gun violence, including the scope and motivation for obtaining, owning, and using a firearm, as well as the differences in violent gun use across the United States.
  • Risk and protective factors to identify how young people access, possess, and carry guns, evaluate the effect of gun storage techniques on rates of suicide and unintentional injury, and improve the understanding of factors that influence firearm violence in specific high-risk locations.
  • Prevention and intervention programs to help us understand the effectiveness of initiatives that target specific audiences including the possessor of the firearm, the victim, and environments that shape norms and behaviors surrounding firearm use.
  • The study of gun safety technology to identify the impact of technologies designed to reduce firearm injury, examine consumer acceptance of safety technologies, and explore policy approaches  to these technologies.
  • The influence of video games and media on gun use and safety.

We are thrilled to see the government taking an evidence-base approach to coping with this critical public health issue. And we look forward to reporting on outcomes of this research to help communities and policy makers better understand the best ways to address gun violence.


  1. Gun violence, how can you quantify that? Does that include when someone shoots their husband or wife because they cheated on you? Does it include someone who shoots a person trying to break in their homes? Gun violence is relative.

  2. Michael Case says:

    It does not matter if there is a gap in the evidence gun control should be implemented. It is the only way to gain control over gun violence and help with the culture of gun ownership in the US.

  3. James Wagon says:

    The best control is not to sell guns in America. Recall all the guns across the country and everyone will live a happy life. Most important, crime rates will certainly reduce.

  4. Fiona says:

    I come from Scotland in the UK and since the first school shooting tragedy occurred in Dunblane Primary School in Scotland in 1996, there has been a UK ban on hand guns. I believe there was also 3 previous school shootings in England prior to the Dunblane indecent, but the Dunblane massacre was one of the deadliest criminal acts involving firearms in the history of the United Kingdom, with 16 children and 1 teacher shot dead by the gunman before he shot himself. This was such a tragedy that the government subsequently banned most firearms and in Scotland we’ve never had another incident since. The only guns we are allowed are hunting guns and the only people who have them are farmers and hunters. You need a licence and have to pass a criminal and mental health check before you are approved. If you are not a farmer and want to shoot for sport you have to join a hunting club which is very expensive and only rich people can afford it. You are not allowed go shooting on your own, you have to go with a guide from the hunting club and you are told what you are allowed to shoot as many animals are protected. Non one is allowed to walk down the street with a gun, it is illegal. Our police don’t even have guns, instead they have batons or tazors, although we do have a specialized armed response unit who only deal with extreme circumstances like terrorist situations or drug raids. I’m sure there are some criminals who have guns, but i have never seen a gun in Scotland and shootings are incredible rare since the gun ban.
    I think the USA is crazy for allowing anyone to own any type of gun, and that is the reason you have so many shootings, because guns are so freely available anyone can get one. The fact is, although most people are not going to go out killing everyone with guns, there is too many unstable people in the world to allow everyone the right to own a gun. That’s just asking for trouble, as you are so tragically finding out. For me it’s shocking that so many people in the USA are opposed to gun bans, how many more children have to die before you realize guns are bad?

  5. Colleen says:

    “Gun violence,” what a unique phrase, maybe it should be relabeled “people violence” and have sub-categories of, “husband violence,” “wife violence,” “cutlery violence,” “verbal manipulation violence,” “sexual exploitation violence.” I could go on with this list. What is the defining factor of each of these violence’s? Human beings, we need to get in touch with ‘why’ ALL of these behaviors are happening. Find ‘where’ they are increasing and target those specific audiences. None of these are a one size fits all problem.
    Having more governmental regulations isn’t the answer. So we now all wear seatbelts instead of being given the ability to make educated decisions on our own; because obviously we need big brother to tell us when and what to do at all times. (I know someone will come blazing in to say how many lives have been saved because of the government forcing us to wear seat belts). My point is, something else will come on to the radar screen and the media will begin a campaign against that and say “government intervention is needed for the good of all the people.” Where does this stop?
    Take away all the guns and the criminals will still have access to guns and shootings will still occur. But now, the general population will have no ability to protect itself. I say a knife or fork against a gun isn’t very good odds. Let’s start fixing societies problems, not creating more regulations and rules when they aren’t followed by most of the perpetrators anyway.

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