For the first time in almost twenty years, gun violence research is receiving a much-needed boost from federal money. Researchers like Dr. Demetrios Demetriades of the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center want to better understand the scope of the problem so that states can use their prevention programs more effectively.
Demetriades’s trauma ward sees one or two new victims of gunshot wounds per day on average. A recent shooting in El Monte brought the two men involved to the closest hospital, which wasn’t a trauma center. One of them died. The other was transferred to LA County + USC Medical Center, where he was saved by Demetriades and his team.
“Because the first man didn’t die in a trauma hospital,” writes NPR’s Kirk Siegler, “that fatality will likely never get reported to any national registry. And this highlights a serious problem: there are big gaps in what gets reported and what doesn’t when it comes to gun violence.”
“You’ll be able to address the problem only if you have reliable information,” Demetriades says. “Without reliable information, you cannot take the appropriate corrective action—you cannot allocate the resources as needed.”
Last year, an executive order from President Obama directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other labs to resume their research and come up with prevention strategies. The CDC has started offering over $7 million in grants to states to expand its National Violent Death Reporting System, and people like Garen Wintermute, an ER physician and the director of the Violence Prevention Program Research Program at UC Davis, are encouraged.
“There are such data systems, and have been for decades, for motor vehicle injuries, and that sort of continuing flow of data has done a great deal to shape our efforts to prevent motor vehicle injuries.”