One of the executive actions taken today by President Obama in response to recent mass shootings was to “direct the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.” This is a major shift away from federal policy of the last 15+ years which has effectively suppressed funding of public health research into firearm injury and gun safety. Of course, without new resources, this may amount to a frustrating unfunded mandate. It is Congress, not the executive, that controls appropriation of funds … including the budget of the CDC.
But let’s assume there will be new research into gun violence as a public heath problem. What questions should be asked? Emily Badger, writing in the Atlantic Cities blog suggests 9 Questions Researchers May Now Be Able to Answer About Urban Gun Violence. I am sure there are many more that we, as a discipline, would like to be able to answer. What research questions should be on that list? And how do we answer skeptics who assert that the CDC has no business studying gun violence – that this is a field of study better left to criminologists?