Statement on NIJ's Role in the National Dialogue on Gun Violence

Greg Ridgeway, NIJ Acting Director

Our entire country is talking about gun violence. The recent spate of mass gun violence coupled with the stubbornly persistent death toll in smaller incidents has brought this issue to the forefront of our nation’s consciousness. On Jan. 16, 2013, President Obama delineated 23 executive action items designed to put us on a path toward reducing the problem of gun violence in America. The Senate has been holding hearings to begin an official dialogue on policy development.

While the discussion of gun violence and our nation’s gun policy continues, I am proud that the National Institute of Justice has been a major contributor to the debate. Our research catalog demonstrates that we have remained a consistent, relevant part of the evolving knowledgebase on gun violence and safety over the past two decades. We have published or sponsored more than 30 studies on this topic. Our portfolio representing the social, forensic and physical sciences dates back to the early 1980s. Since 2005, NIJ has awarded more than $14 million in grants for research on a range of topics, including firearm toolmarks, technology to detect hidden weapons, and evaluations of violence interventions.

Historically, NIJ has guided gun violence research down three main pathways:

  • Regulation and policy, such as the effectiveness of the assault weapons ban in the mid-1990s
  • Illicit markets, often referred to as supply-side studies, which assess practices associated with trafficking from or to prohibited persons
  • Intervention/focused deterrence, such as demand-side programs studying interventions that bring together multiple community and criminal justice stakeholders to target high-risk, violent gun offender populations

In 2005, NIJ co-sponsored a National Research Council report that summarized the state of gun violence research and called for future investigation. In 2011, we convened the expert Firearms and Violence Topical Working Group, resulting in the identification of seven key areas for studying ways to reduce gun-related violent crime.

Currently, I am pleased to announce we are heeding the President’s call for gun violence research by offering a $1.5 million solicitation related to such broad areas as school safety, illicit gun markets and effective intervention. Read the solicitation Research on Firearms and Violence (pdf, 24 pages).

I am committed to keeping scientific innovation at the core of NIJ. Whether it is in our gun violence research or other criminal justice matters, NIJ will continue to produce objective research to guide policy and practice.

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Date Modified: February 14, 2013