Health care giant Kaiser Permanente commits $2M to gun research

The nation’s largest integrated health system, Kaiser Permanente, will invest $2 million in research for preventing gun injuries and death. In Monday’s announcement, Kaiser said the endeavor — designated the Kaiser Permanente Task Force on Firearm Injury Prevention — will focus on “addressing preventable gun-related injuries and death, whether by suicide, homicide or accident.”

The Oakland-based company explained the task force will study gun violence like they would cancer or heart disease and then the results will be disseminated for peer review. Kaiser research vice president Elizabeth McGlynn, PhD, who will co-lead development of the research initiative, said they hope their work will “serve as a model for addressing and effectively disseminating research findings in communities nationwide.”

The announcement comes weeks after federal lawmakers clarified through the annual spending bill that they would allow the Centers for Disease Control to once again research gun violence. The subject has been a hotly debated topic since pro-gun lawmakers added language to the spending bill in 1996 prohibiting the government agency from advocating for gun control. The nod to researchers was celebrated as a win by Democrats embroiled in the debate, but the argument over what exactly constitutes as gun violence research continues.

The CDC has broached the subject numerous times over the decade, but gun violence researchers and gun control advocates argue the effort is little more than data collection and the work has had minimal, if any, influence over major policy changes. Research group, the RAND Corporation, published the results of a two-year study last month showing little to no evidence publicly available about the effectiveness of common gun policies (both pro- and anti-gun).

Yet, gun violence researchers and gun control advocates dismiss the hoopla and see the effort as an empty platitude by lawmakers wanting to appear to be doing something after February’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Pro-gun advocates, however, stand by the decision to keep the language in the federal budget, saying the CDC should focus on studying root causes of gun violence rather than ways to place restrictions on gun ownership.

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