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Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review
tion, and firearms violence. Rather, the committee recommends that work be started to think carefully about possible research and data designs to address these issues.
Prevention Programs and Technology
Firearm violence prevention programs are disseminated widely in U.S. public school systems to children ages 5 to 18, and safety technologies have been suggested as an alternative means to prevent firearm injuries. The actual effects of a particular prevention program on violence and injury, however, have been little studied and are difficult to predict. For children, firearm violence education programs may result in increases in the very behaviors they are designed to prevent, by enhancing the allure of guns for young children and by establishing a false norm of gun-carrying for adolescents. Likewise, even if perfectly reliable, technology that serves to reduce injury among some groups may lead to increased deviance or risk among others.
The committee found little scientific basis for understanding the effects of different prevention programs on the rates of firearm injuries. Generally, there has been scant funding for evaluation of these programs. For the few that have been evaluated, there is little empirical evidence of positive effects on children’s knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. Likewise, the extent to which different technologies affect injuries remains unknown. Often, the literature is entirely speculative. In other cases, for example the empirical evaluations of child access prevention (CAP) laws, the empirical literature reveals conflicting estimates that are difficult to reconcile.
In light of the lack of evidence, the committee recommends that firearm violence prevention programs should be based on general prevention theory, that government programs should incorporate evaluation into implementation efforts, and that a sustained body of empirical research be developed to study the effects of different safety technologies on violence and crime.
Criminal Justice Interventions
Policing and sentencing interventions have had recent broad bipartisan support and are a major focus of current efforts to reduce firearms violence. These policies generally do not affect the ability of law-abiding citizens to keep guns for recreation or self-defense, and they have the potential to reduce gun violence by deterring or incapacitating violent offenders. Descriptive accounts suggest that some of these policies may have had dramatic crime-reducing effects: homicide rates fell dramatically after the implementation of Boston’s targeted policing program, Operation Ceasefire, and Richmond’s sentencing enhancement program, Project Exile.