Gun violence researchers fear Trump may take away vital data

Gun violence researchers at the University of California Davis’s Violence Prevention Research Program scrambled to download vital data after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Wired reports that after the Trump administration wiped the White House’s website of all references to climate change, researchers within the program feared the same thing could happen to gun violence data on federal websites related to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“It was a real call to action,” Magdalena Cerdá, epidemiologist in the program, told Wired. “I was on Amtrak between Berkeley and Sacramento. So I sent an email to Garen Wintemute saying we needed to start downloading our data immediately.”

Wintemute, epidemiologist and director of the program, then walked around the research facility telling his researchers to download as much data as they could. He feared information could be suppressed as he said it was for him during the early years of former President George W. Bush’s administration, in which he worked with the ATF to study criminal gun markets.

“We had the reports ready for 2001 and 2002, but their publication was suppressed,” said Wintemute. “We were ordered to destroy our copies of the documents.”

Researchers within the program managed to download all the public gun violence data they could think of after Trump’s inauguration, ready if they should ever lose access to federal data related to firearms licenses, sales, gun use in criminal activity, and deaths.

“There aren’t a lot of different kinds of data, but they are foundational,” says Wintemute. “Every research study on firearm violence begins with a statement on the size of the problem. That’s what these data provide.”

So far, the Trump administration has not taken away the gun violence data the researchers use on a daily basis.