tragedies. All these events occur in the context of a civil society that has millions of guns lawfully owned by citizens who use them for protection, hunting, sport, or work. There are also an unknown number of guns in the hands of criminals and others who are prohibited by law from possessing them.
To help minimize future firearm-related deaths, President Obama issued 23 executive orders directing federal agencies to improve knowledge of the causes of firearm violence, the interventions that prevent firearm violence, and strategies to minimize the public health burden of firearm violence (White House, 2013b). One of these executive orders, Action #14, noted that “in addition to being a law enforcement challenge, gun violence is also a serious public health issue that affects thousands of individuals, families, and communities across the Nation” (White House, 2013b). This order directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with other relevant federal agencies, to immediately begin identifying the most pressing research problems in firearm-related violence with the greatest potential for broad public health impact. Based on this directive, the CDC and the CDC Foundation3 requested that the Institute of Medicine (IOM), in collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC), identify questions that would define a public health research agenda for firearm violence prevention and intervention. Broadly, the committee was charged with identifying the most critical research questions in the following areas:
• The characteristics of firearm violence
• Risk and protective factors
• Interventions and strategies
• Gun safety technology
• The influence of video games and other media
The evidence generated by implementing a public health research agenda can enable the development of sound policies that support both the rights and the responsibilities central to gun ownership in the United States. In the absence of this research, policy makers will be left to debate controversial policies without scientifically sound evidence about their potential effects.
3 The CDC Foundation’s support originated from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and one anonymous donor.