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.


The public health field focuses on problems that are associated with significant levels of morbidity and mortality. The complexity and frequency of firearm-related violence combined with its impact on the health and safety of the nation’s residents make it a topic of considerable public health importance and suggest that a public health approach should be incorporated into the strategies used to prevent future harm and injuries. A public health approach involves three elements: (1) a focus on prevention, (2) a focus on scientific methodology to identify risk and patterns, and (3) multidisciplinary collaboration to address the issue. Public health strategies are designed to interrupt the connection between three essential elements: (1) the “agent” (the source of injury [weapon or perpetrator]), (2) the “host” (the injured person), and (3) the “environment” (the conditions under which the injury occurred). This public health approach has produced successes in reduction of tobacco use, unintentional poisoning, and motor vehicle fatalities.


In order to develop relevant research questions and interventions intended to prevent firearm-related violence, it is important to understand what is and is not known about the general characteristics of both fatal and nonfatal firearm violence.

Gun type and intended use vary; so do the manifestations of firearm violence. Some firearm violence results in death, but most does not. There are important disparities across socioeconomic and ethnic groups in overall mortality rates from firearm violence. Further, there is substantial variation within each type of violence: suicide, homicide, unintentional injuries, and fatalities. For example, suicides in youth may be motivated by very different factors from those for suicides in older

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