University of Michigan launching new Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan announced it is establishing a new Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention to propose innovative solutions to reduce injuries caused by firearms and generate knowledge around the public health crisis that causes more than 100 deaths each day in the United States.

“Firearm violence led to nearly 40,000 deaths nationwide last year, and the stark reality that we all must come to grips with is that this public health crisis is unfortunately growing more intense every year,” U-M vice president for research and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Rebecca Cunningham, said in a release.

“We have an incredible opportunity here with this new institute to really address the problem head on through collaborative research and scholarship.

“By partnering with rural and urban community leaders and other key stakeholders, we can leverage our expertise and resources so that together we achieve our common goals of decreasing firearm injury and death, all while respecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”

The university will be committing $10 million over the next five years to support the initiative, which launched in 2019 as a presidential initiative to develop and address critical questions around gun safety and violence.

Cunningham said that researchers at the university have secured the most federal funding to study firearm injury prevention of any academic institution in the country.

Over the past decade, more Michigan residents have died from firearm injuries than from opioids, but being such a politically polarized subject, the issue has minimal research funding and limited science from faculty scholars devoted to the field.

The institute will be exploring numerous types of firearm injuries to address the challenge, including:

  • Community and school-based violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Peer violence
  • Suicide
  • Police violence

They will also examine disparities of those most vulnerable to firearm injuries by gender, race, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

The institute will have a research and scholarship core which will aim to promote collaboration across disciplines, scholarship and creative practice, seed innovative research projects and explore external funding opportunities.

The institute will train and educate a new generation of diverse faculty and students with new firearm-related courses focusing on topics like health disparities and health equity, epidemiology, interventions and policy analysis.

At least three new faculty hires will be supported by the institute’s funding as well as five postdoctoral fellows and several graduate student research assistants. They will explore firearm scholarship and research from a variety of disciplines including engineering, public health and social sciences.

“The Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention will help us add to the science and data we are marshaling as a public university to save lives and prevent harm,” U-M President Mark Schlissel said in a release. “I applaud the many students and faculty researchers who are devoting their intellectual talents to solving this horrific public health crisis.”

The institute’s inaugural co-directors, professors Marc Zimmerman and Patrick Carter, have studied the topic of firearm violence for more than a decade and have authored together nearly 350 academic publications on firearm injury prevention and violence.

They also make up part of the leadership team of the Firearm Safety among Children and Teens consortium, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Housed at the School of Public Health and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zimmerman -- a professor or both public health and psychology -- directs the Prevention Research Center and the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center.

An associate professor of emergency medicine, health behavior and health education, Carter directs U-M’s Injury Prevention Center, which is funded by the CDC.

Since more than 30% of all annual firearm fatalities are older adult firearm suicides, Carter is leading new research which explores whether aging firearm owners should discuss safe storage of their weapons with their physician.

According to his findings, less than 5% of firearm owners in this age group were asked by their physician over the past year about firearm storage.

The institute will soon be appointing deans and faculty to its executive and advisory committees to help provide guidance on how to foster cross-discipline collaboration and strategic priorities.

It will also be establishing an external stakeholder committee that will be comprised of nonpartisan and non-academic individuals, such as religious and school leaders, firearm owners, rural and urban community groups and law enforcement.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.