7 governors band together to form gun violence research bloc

The heads of six states and Puerto Rico on Wednesday announced the creation of the joint Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium.

The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island joined with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to launch the project, organized by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, a public policy think tank of the State University of New York.

The move is labeled by the governors, mostly Democrats with a history of signing sweeping gun control measures into law, as filling the gap left since the 1996 Dickey Amendment limited the use of federal funds for the study of injuries and death tied to guns available to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. The amendment restricts research in the sense that funds available for injury prevention cannot be used to advocate gun control.

“Gun violence is a public health emergency, and it should be treated as such,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy in a statement on the consortium. “By working together with like-minded states, we can take strides toward understanding the root causes of violence and determine the most effective prevention strategies.”

Members of the project include a number of functionaries and administrators such as Delaware Gov. John Carney’s policy advisor Romain Alexander, the deans of the schools of criminal justice from Rutgers and Roger Williams universities, University of Connecticut provost Craig Kennedy, Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser, and Massachusetts State Police Lt. Col. Dermot Quinn.

The scholars working with the consortium are drawn from across the region and include prolific and sometimes-controversial Harvard gun-violence researcher David Hemenway, who has often been labeled by Second Amendment groups as “anti-gun” and is a frequent sparring partner of economist John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.

Another researcher is Robert J. Spitzer, who has written five books on the politics of gun control, has opined in the New York Times in support of reinstating a federal assault weapons ban and written extensively that the Supreme Court misfired on the Heller and McDonald decisions, which interpret the Second Amendment as an individual right, a concept which he said is “stunningly and fatally defective.”

Spitzer also penned scholarly articles that advance the position that the 2013 New York Safe Act is a model that works, rebuffing possible widespread non-compliance with some tenets with the prospect that “Compliance is unlikely to be either uniform or immediate, but that is not a mark of failure it is, rather, the frictional adjustment between new legal standards and actual behavior.”

From SUNY Upstate Medical University comes Margaret Formica who has argued that gun violence spreads in a way akin to infectious disease and co-signed a “call to action” on guns as a public health epidemic.

Criminologist Jaclyn Schildkraut often shares tweets from gun control advocates on social media, publicly supported Dick’s Sporting Goods’ gun policy changes in addition to campaigns to drop corporate partnership programs with the NRA, and has talked to so many mass shooting survivors that she suffers from “secondary trauma and PTSD.”

Dr. Megan Ranney, who is head of research for the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine, was profiled by The Trace for her long-running series of often graphic tweets on gun violence using the hashtag #docs4gunsense.

Dr. Donald Sebastian with the New Jersey Innovation Institute is one of the nation’s most recognized researchers on smart gun technology, a concept he has been working on for two decades.

Sociologist Jeremy Porter this year was part of a group that researched the “Cure Violence Model” that treats gun crime to as a communicable disease that passes from person to person when left untreated and supports the use of violence interrupters, drawn from former gang members and criminals, to short-circuit potential personal crimes.

Dr. Michael Siegel at the Boston University School of Public Health has worked on a number of studies over the years including one that suggested that states where local law-enforcement had “may-issue” discretion to deny firearm permits saw lower homicide rates than states where police do not. In February, he published a paper on firearm industry marketing and the possibility that it has “fueled an increased demand for more lethal weapons” with a resulting effect on mass shootings. The latter is a key concept used in the long-running lawsuit against firearms maker Remington by a group of family members impacted by the Newtown school shooting.

The Consortium will conduct both new research and become a central public clearinghouse of data from federal, institutional and multi-state sources.

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