By Victor J. Dzau, M.D.
Gun violence in America is a public health crisis, and one that scientists have not been able to effectively study for too long. Our nation has been reluctant to address gun violence with lasting evidence-based policies, but it has never been more critical to address this epidemic head-on. Scientific research will not be able to support every policy that needs to change, but we as researchers can lead the way toward enacting common-sense gun control measures.
The National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, in 2013, authored a report titled Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence that outlined a research agenda focused on illuminating the causes of, possible interventions, and strategies to minimize the burden of firearm-related violence. This research agenda includes areas that warrant further research and highlights current gaps in our understanding that are critical to making informed decisions in the future.
The increasing prevalence of gun violence is a complex and daunting crisis, but it is one that we can see abate in our lifetime. I authored three editorials recently on this topic — two with NAM member Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Committee Chair of Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence (Science and Annals of Internal Medicine), and one with NAM Member Dr. Mark Rosenberg, founding director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC (The Washington Post). All three editorials highlighted the critical need for research to investigate the causes of gun violence, as well as allocated funding to support that research. Evidence-based policies will lead to safer schools, safer communities, and less unnecessary deaths, and do not have to infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens. These policies are long overdue.
Victor J. Dzau, M.D., is president of the National Academy of Medicine. This commentary was originally published in the March 2018 edition of the National Academy of Medicine newsletter