California Moves to Fund Firearm Violence Research

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Senator Wolk sponsored the legislation
Senator Wolk sponsored the legislation

Legislation was introduced today to establish a Firearm Violence Research Center at the University of California with the stated purpose of funding and carrying out important research on firearm-related violence.  Congress, in 1996, at the request of the National Rifle Association, effectively banned funding for firearm-related research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and has since defeated numerous efforts to remove the ban.

The California bill, authored by State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), would create a research center at the University of California with the stated mission to “provide the scientific evidence on which sound firearm violence prevention policies and programs can be based.”

Senator Wolk called on all legislators to set aside their bias on any particular gun policy and support a scientific evidence-based approach of assessing which policies may be most effective in reducing firearm-related deaths and injuries in our state and our nation.  “It doesn’t matter which side of the gun debate you may lean toward. We will all benefit from finding out the facts, using real data and scientific methods, to discover which policies can be most effective and which ones may not produce the desired results.  Our researchers at the University of California are tops in the nation, and if Congress refuses to act responsibly, we need to step up and fill the void.  We have the talent and the capacity to get this done.”

United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote in favor of the bill, “California has the opportunity to once again lead the nation on reforming policy, this time by supporting much-needed research on the causes and impacts of gun violence,” wrote Feinstein.  “I hope my colleagues in Congress will find the courage to follow California’s lead and permit federal funding for gun violence research.”

The former congressman who authored the amendment banning the federal research, Jay Dickey (R-AR, retired) joined with his former adversary, Mark Rosenberg, the former Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, in support of the effort.

“We are writing to express our strong support for this bill, which we believe would help provide much-needed scientific evidence on which to base effective prevention efforts,” wrote Dickey and Rosenberg in a joint letter.  “We have also come to see that gun-violence research can be created, organized and conducted with two objectives: first, to preserve the rights of law-abiding citizens and legal gun owners and, second, to make our homes and communities safer. Well-structured research can be conducted to develop technologies and identify ways to achieve both objectives. We can get there only through research. States can serve as democracy’s laboratories for firearm violence prevention research, as they do for other major health and social problems. This is particularly true for California, where well-qualified researchers already work with uniquely rich and valuable data on research that simply cannot be done elsewhere.”

The bill, SB 1006 is co-sponsored by the American College of Emergency Physicians California Chapter (CA-ACEP), and the American Academy of Pediatrics, California (AAP-CA).

“My colleagues and I witness daily the profound physical and psychological damage inflicted on gunshot victims and their families,” said Dr. Marc Futernick, President of CA-ACEP.  “Firearm violence takes an enormous toll not only on the victims, but also on our nation’s neighborhoods, emergency rooms, hospitals, and law enforcement. Gun violence is a public health epidemic. Research on firearm injuries is vitally needed so that evidence-based prevention measures can be implemented.”

“As co-sponsors of Senator Wolk’s legislation, pediatricians across California strongly support university-based gun violence prevention research to create evidence-based, cost-effective policies to protect the most vulnerable among us, our children and youth,” said Kris Calvin, Executive Director of AAP-CA.

Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Napa), an avid hunter, gun owner, and chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in the U.S. House of Representatives, also threw his support behind the bill.  “By allowing experts to conduct research on the causes of gun violence, California is stepping up where Republicans in Congress have failed,” said Thompson. “This bill will let our experts do what they do best – conduct research that will save some lives. I commend Senator Wolk for leading this effort. Congress should follow suit.”

The bill is coauthored by Senators Kevin de León, Richard Pan, Ben Allen, Steven Glazer, Isadore Hall III, Loni Hancock, Robert Hertzberg; and Assemblymembers Bill Dodd, Bill Quirk, Catharine Baker, Jim Cooper, Eduardo Garcia, Lorena Gonzalez, Marc Levine, Kevin McCarty, Miguel Santiago, and Philip Ting. The full text of SB 1006 may be found online at www.leginfo.ca.gov.

(This was a press release from Senator Lois Wolk’s office)

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30 thoughts on “California Moves to Fund Firearm Violence Research”

  1. PhillipColeman

    This story has not even started and yet it has components that promise high-octane discussion and controversy that is just mind-boggling.

    First, it has great regional appeal. The over/under from Vegas for the number of Vanguard columns on this topic is 23.

    A senior State Senator from Davis who normally would be subjected to the predictable financial and political onslaught soon to be launched by the NRA in retaliation. But Lois is termed-out and bullet-proof (Sorry, a pun that was too good to pass up). She is immune to any NRA political or financial threat. And Senator Wolk surely has a few political markers to cash in before her move to other pursuits. This could be Senator Wolk’s legislative “crowning glory.” For sure, a lot more folks are going to hear her name.

    This greater Davis area is populated by members of the medical community, with association with the University of California, and who have been outspoken about gun violence from a medical perspective. A perfect fit for this bill. And it’s going to get a few research bucks into the local economy.

    The 20-year-old federal legislation banning similar research on a national level, with strong  sponsorship from the NRA. I did not know that! Probably, the NRA would prefer in these turbulent times that everybody else had remain similarly ignorant. Too late now.

    The NRA except in certain geographical regions has lost a lot of political clout and is approaching a siege mentality. And to have the former congressman who sponsored this federal bill now come out in support of Lois’ legislation is nothing short of remarkable. I’d urge the retired Arkansas congressman to change his home phone number and become familiar with hearing the word, “traitor.” This bill will easily jump into the national commentary forum, and don’t be surprised if become part of the Presidential Debate.

  2. Tia Will

    Phil

    The 20-year-old federal legislation banning similar research on a national level, with strong  sponsorship from the NRA. I did not know that! Probably, the NRA would prefer in these turbulent times that everybody else had remain similarly ignorant. Too late now.”

    Wow !  If you did not know this, it speaks volumes about the amount of work that is needed in education. I have been in a very limited manner addressing this issue for years and basically just assumed that law enforcement in essentially any capacity would have been well aware. Thanks so much for sharing this. It’s a real eye opener.

    And I believe that you are right about it gaining national standing as an issue, and believe it is long past due. My kudos to Lois Wolk and all those standing with her.

  3. Frankly

    We can expect government-funded research that pays the salaries of the government employees of academia to deliver completely politically-unbiased conclusions in their research papers that will of course be peer reviewed by people of their own ilk.

    Right.

    I fully expect their primary conclusion to be:

    “Guns kill people, not people”

      1. David Greenwald

        How do you know it will end up being biased research? The studies haven’t even been conducted yet.

        Do you even understand the purpose of the research?

        “The former congressman who authored the amendment banning the federal research, Jay Dickey (R-AR, retired) joined with his former adversary, Mark Rosenberg, the former Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, in support of the effort.”

        “We are writing to express our strong support for this bill, which we believe would help provide much-needed scientific evidence on which to base effective prevention efforts,” wrote Dickey and Rosenberg in a joint letter. “We have also come to see that gun-violence research can be created, organized and conducted with two objectives: first, to preserve the rights of law-abiding citizens and legal gun owners and, second, to make our homes and communities safer. Well-structured research can be conducted to develop technologies and identify ways to achieve both objectives. We can get there only through research. States can serve as democracy’s laboratories for firearm violence prevention research, as they do for other major health and social problems. This is particularly true for California, where well-qualified researchers already work with uniquely rich and valuable data on research that simply cannot be done elsewhere.”

  4. Tia Will

    BP and Frankly

    Could we not even give them a chance to see if their research is biased ? We allow research on virtually every other product that I can think of. Food, toys, cars, cell phones, and yet we have singled out firearms as the only ( ok correct me if I am wrong on this and their are other exempt products) product for which safety research is specifically unfindable. Do we really believe that this is an “unbiased” approach to safety information.

    1. Barack Palin

      They know what these legislators are looking for, the legislators are going to be paying their salaries so imo the legislators will get exactly what they’re looking for.

      It would be like the NRA funding a study and getting the results they were looking for which I’m sure you would also say that it was biased.

      1. Tia Will

        BP

        It would be like the NRA funding a study and getting the results they were looking for which I’m sure you would also say that it was biased.”

        Now that is an interesting perspective. You seem willing to accept the position of the NRA but are unwilling to even consider evidence that might not be in agreement with their positions, even without seeing it.

        1. David Greenwald

          Tia: What I find interesting is that if you read the article, you’ll see that actually both sides are working to establish the center in hopes of having policy research that can preserve Second Amendment Rights while dealing with gun violence.  That’s the whole purpose of this center and BP is simply ignoring it.  This isn’t a gun control effort, both sides are trying to move forward with a common purpose.

        2. Frankly

          The US is a big country.. the 3rd most populated country in the world. 312 million people. We are not like Australia with its measly 22 million or like those northern European countries that US liberals drool over (they are mostly white, culturally homogeneous and about the population of Wisconsin … 9-16 million). The US has a third world country next door… one with 125 million… and one with lots of bad people that would just love to sell guns at a higher price to criminals and terrorists here. And our northern and southern borders are huge… bigger than any other country in terms of lineal miles to patrol. So the guns will flow to the bad guys no matter what. There is just no way to keep the guns away from the bad guys. However, we can make the US a more gun-safe place. We can allow stop and frisk in high gun crime areas. We can increase penalties for using a gun in crime… and we can invest in mental health services and changes to the liberal laws that prevent crazy people from being committed. These are things that the political left will not allow. And lastly, we can allow more gun registration and prevent nuts from being able to own guns. This is something that the political right won’t allow because they are correct in their concern that the political left won’t stop until they ban and eliminate ALL guns from American society… something that they will never be able to do… they will just end up making us like France where bad guys get the guns and use them on innocent people unable to defend themselves.  The left is the problem as it relates to making the US a more gun-safe country.

  5. Frankly

    Research funded by private industry will likely be biased in favor of that industry.  But we all know this… and we can process the findings of that research in consideration of that.

    But this is the way I look at it…

    The American left, so often getting their hat handed to them in past elections, rebuilt by controlling societal institutions of education, media and science that would spew both  half-truths and outright propaganda on one end and then persecute those that would challenge these half-truths and propaganda on the other end.  The bias coming from these institutions is largely political/ideological.   That would be fine if the left and these institutions admitted the bias.  However, they demand the research output of these institutions be adopted as undisputed fact and that their work is pristine and pure… and lastly that they are justified in persecuting those that would challenge it.

    These three institutions have lost credibility to deliver politically unbiased research findings.  Either they are infested with leftist political operatives, or they are controlled like money-stringed puppets by those left-leaning people in power.

    Or lastly they are browbeat into submission by rabid activists on the left of everything.  Those on the right are generally working for a living and lack the time to fight back.  But they are starting to change… one of the reasons I blog here and other places and fight the ugliness of PC correctness persecution (hear that Biddilin?).

  6. Tia Will

    David

    This isn’t a gun control effort, both sides are trying to move forward with a common purpose.”

    I completely understand. This has been my position all along. My personal concern is with gun safety and injury prevention, not with gun control and always has been. Unfortunately it would seem that we are finally, finally getting to the point where some are willing to work on this goal in a completely non-ideologic, non-partisan manner, and still there are those who are so biased and blinded as to not even being willing to consider that this as a health and safety measure, not some left wing conspiracy.

  7. Tia Will

    Frankly

    we can invest in mental health services”

    What a joke !  It is conservatives who have consistently attempted to block any collaborative effort to change health care from a byproduct of the insurance, hospital, and pharmaceutical industry, as well as the groups of physicians that control the access to health care through their deliberate restrictive policies on medical school and residency slots into a comprehensive service available to all citizens.  How many efforts to repeal Obamacare rather than present a comprehensive health care plan of their own ? Let alone mental health care which typically pays less and is much more costly due to the need for long term therapy in conjunction with medication and yes, sometimes hospitalization. I am sure that there are private insurance companies just lining up to pay for the care of such individuals.

  8. Tia Will

    Frankly

    Those on the right are generally working for a living and lack the time to fight back.”

    Is the implication here that those of us taking up progressive causes or even neutral attempts at safety improvement such as this one, do not “work for a living”. I am unaware that I have any more or less discretionary time than you do to promote the causes that I care about.

    1. Frankly

      It is well documented that public sector employees tend to be Democrat and they work fewer hours than do private sector employees.

      You may or may not have more discretionary time than me, I don’t know.  But I tend to sleep about 6 hours and have multiple business interests going at the same time.  I have time to blog because I can generally fit it in between other work tasks.

      My experience is that those Republicans and conservatives with a level of education that would support them being a productive activist are too business keeping their jobs to be able to devote much time to causes.

      However, activists on the left are often public sector employees that work their 9 – 4 jobs and have plenty of time to agitate for cause.

        1. hpierce

          So, you assume that based on YOUR “experience” with state agencies, you generalize to apply that to all employees who work in the public sector… nice… also untrue…

  9. Napoleon Pig IV

    I see nothing wrong with the establishment of this proposed Center, but I see merit in paying attention to the concerns raised by Frankly. As someone smarter than me approximately said, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” or something to that effect, and the motives for establishing this center and the details of its future operations are worthy of serious and ongoing scrutiny.

    The University of California is not likely to be a politically neutral entity with respect to the broad definition of “gun violence.” I see that Wolk even managed to get reference to “terrorism” into the text of the bill, whatever the actual definition of “terrorism” may be. The mandate to conduct peer review of grant applications as done by NIH, as usual among politicians, ignores the many problems and biases long-known to plague NIH study sections (the committees that do the “peer review”). This is not an easy problem to solve, but it will certainly result in bias regarding the selection of what research proposals are funded and which are not.

    So, there are many potential problems. However, there are also too many deaths in which firearms are used (although I wonder how many people who use a firearm to commit suicide would simply choose another method in the absence of access to a firearm – in other words, are we mixing research into suicide prevention with research in how to best sell gun control to an unwitting population?).

    I welcome saving lives. I also welcome open public critique of any attempt to use the ideal of saving lives as a means to consolidate even greater power in the hands of a not always benign government.

    1. Tia Will

      Napoleon

      although I wonder how many people who use a firearm to commit suicide would simply choose another method in the absence of access to a firearm “

      You may not have seen his posts, but our very own rdcanning is a nationally recognized expert in suicide prevention who has spoken to this point several times on the Vanguard. While it is true that some individual’s who would find another means of suicide if a firearm were unavailable, these does not mean that many, many more will not be thwarted by the lower effectiveness of other means. Many will be rescued and go on to live full and productive lives. Also, the urge to suicide tends to wax and wane and can be triggered by acute events. Once the triggering event passes, many individuals will recover sufficiently to seek help. They are completely deprived of this opportunity when they have a firearm readily at hand when they are at their nadir.

        1. hpierce

          Tia, I served over 500 hours as a volunteer Suicide Prevention operator in the Bay Area in the 70’s… I worked the “graveyard shift” 7 PM Friday to 7 AM Saturday…  lots of drunks calling in, in a depressed state, mostly “non-lethal”… but a lot of “high lethality” calls as well, where I, working alone, had to call PD for welfare checks or more…

          To stay sane, yeah, you develop a sort of “humor”, to get you past the possible horror… suicide is not funny, but yes, I did crack a good sized irony smile…

          [should have composed this with “bullet points”]

      1. Frankly

        From soda taxes to pursuit of gun bans (because this point about suicide prevention is only achievable through an almost complete ban of firearms), it has become clear to me how strong the nanny government mindset is in some people, and ironically how many more psychologically weak people we seem to be producing to provide the call to action for the nanny government people.

        People cannot control their eating habits, so tax soda.

        People cannot control their suicidal impulses, so ban guns.

        We are more and more becoming a nation of people incapable of caring for ourselves, and in need of life-time mothering.

        I think the over-mothering is the main contributing factor to people growing less capable to care for themselves.   There is a symbiotic relationship.

        But getting back to the gun thing.  It is irrational to pursue a “solution” to suicide by passing stronger gun control laws.  Simply develop a vision of what gun ownership would need to look like in this country to have any material impact in reducing gun suicide, and you will quickly note that that vision is unattainable.  And with this realization you should also accept that with the pursuit of gun laws to help reduce suicide rates you are actually responsible for deflecting energy away from the actual feasible opportunities to help reduce suicide.  Said another way, your myopic and dogged ideological pursuit of gun restrictions in the name of suicide will result in more suicide victims than might otherwise occur.

        1. Tia Will

          Frankly

          Your post is full of unsubstantiated assumptions.

          1.”because this point about suicide prevention is only achievable through an almost complete ban of firearms”

          You misunderstand that intent of many of us in the health care community. The point is not an attempt to  ban guns or to avoid all gun related injuries which is of course impossible. The point is risk reduction. Fewer firearms in the hands of those who are at risk of either accidental or intentional injury to self or others reduces risk. You will notice that I said nothing at all about bans. You raised it as a knee jerk reaction to even the very mention of firearm related safety.

          2. “It is irrational to pursue a “solution” to suicide by passing stronger gun control laws.  “

          No one except you said anything at all about passing stronger gun control laws. My preference based on my very limited current knowledge would be research on “smart gun” technology allowing only a single shooter to operate the firearm, but I am sure that there might be other safer strategies that have been essentially stifled by the ban on research.

          3. The assumption that I am only concerned with suicide. I also see accidental discharges as a major problem that could be well addressed by researching safer weapons. Better means for preventing accidental shootings such as the mother by her toddler when out shopping, or the numerous incidents of child on child shootings every year.

          I am not proposing any bans at all. I am proposing allowing safety research for firearms just as we do for virtually every other potentially dangerous product. I honestly do not understand how such a very mild, seemingly uncontroversial  goal, namely product improvement, causes you to go into knee jerk, straw man building mode.

  10. Tia Will

    A word about research in general. I would say that all research is biased to some degree.

    The first bias is in the mind of the person who has the original idea. They are of course biased by there own interests, world view, knowledge base and curiosity.

    A second bias comes into play when they attempt to obtain funding for their research ideas. This is true whether or not the are seeking government or private industry funding. Unfortunately it is true that there are very few sources of funding that come completely free of any ideological or economic strings. Like almost everything else in our society, we have decided to make research an adversarial, competitive endeavor rather than a search for the truth much to our own detriment in the area of health and safety.

    A third set of biases arise in the study design. There are techniques which are used to prevent as many of these inherent biases as possible such as, in medicine, the large, randomized, prospective, double blinded study which is the goal standard.

    Without research, we do not gain new information. Fortunately we have balances within our system. Any one who can obtain funding can do research….or if one is independently wealthy… or has access to some one who is, they can self fund. Then the studies from both sides can be compared in the open field of peer reviewed literature where anyone can review and make their best case to support a refute any given finding.

    The answer is not to block research. The answer is too freely promote research and let the chips ( or in this case information) fall where it may.

  11. Tia Will

    hpierce

    Tia, I served over 500 hours as a volunteer Suicide Prevention operator”

    My hat is off to you. Saving lives in this particular way takes a very special type of strength. Thank you for your time in service. And…..a smile is a good thing, even with a large dollop of irony.

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