Experts suggest areas of focus for future gun violence research
A team of researchers known as the Firearm Safety Among Children and Teens, or FACTS, Consortium have identified specific areas in which urgent information is needed within the next 5 years to reduce firearm injuries and deaths among children and teens.
The research agenda created by the consortium was a result of the largest grant awarded for the topic by the NIH in more than 2 decades, Rebecca M. Cunningham, MD, a FACTS team leader and emergency physician at the University of Michigan, said in a previous interview.
Cunningham told Infectious Diseases in Children that the FACTS team has been working on several projects related to the agenda, but no research has been completed yet. Some of the projects will have early results by the end of this summer or early fall, she said.
Creating an agenda for research is of particular importance since the rate of firearm deaths among children aged 19 years and younger increased 44% between 2013 and 2017. Firearm injuries remain the second leading cause of death among U.S. children and adolescents.
According to the consortium, some of the most urgent questions that require further research include:
- How is the epidemiology of nonfatal firearm injuries similar or different from fatal firearm injuries?
- How do children and adolescents acquire and carry firearms?
- How are firearms stored in households with children and adolescents?
- How effective are various programs for improving firearm handling and reducing firearm violence and suicide?
- How often, and under what circumstances, are children and teens protected by self-defensive use of firearms, by themselves or by others?
- How effective are existing and new technologies, such as higher pressure triggers and radio frequency identification safeguards, at preventing firearm injuries and deaths among children and teens?
- What are the immediate and long-term costs associated with pediatric firearm outcomes, including health care costs, as well as criminal justice, disability, mental health and societal outcomes?
Cunningham stressed that the FACTS Consortium is apolitical and “specifically focused on decreasing death and injury in the context of Second Amendment rights” and that the questions and agenda were created with various stakeholder groups, including gun owners.
“Research questions and agendas for injury prevention, including firearm injury prevention, are focused on a scientific approach to safety,” she said. “Car and auto research are welcomed across the U.S. to keep us and our children safer as we travel. There is no assumption or concern that if we seek answers to auto safety that the answer will be to eliminate cars. We study pools to see how they can be safer and have fewer children drown. We study firearm injury prevention to find answers to keep children and teens safer.” – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: All authors received grants from the NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development during the conduct of this study.