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Few topics engender more controversy than “gun control.” Large segments

of the population express contradictory opinions and assert contradictory

facts when they discuss the role of firearms in violence and

especially how to reduce violent injuries and deaths that involve firearms.

The report of the Committee on Improving Research Information and Data

on Firearms was not intended to, nor does it reach any conclusions about

the issue of gun control. Rather, we have addressed what empirical research

tells about the role of firearms in violence. Our recommendations address

how to improve the empirical foundation for discussions about firearms

policy. Until that foundation is better established, little progress is likely in

the ongoing public debate over firearms.

One theme that runs throughout our report is the relative absence of

credible data central to addressing even the most basic questions about

firearms and violence. As we often state in the report, without much better

data, important questions will continue to be unanswerable. This is unacceptable

when we see the impact that firearm-related violent injury and

death have on American society and especially some of the most vulnerable

segments of that population. The fact that little can be said about the

prevention and control of these levels of death and injury—when for some

segments of the population they are the leading causes of death and injury—

is of concern to us as citizens and scientists.

Reaching consensus on a controversial topic for which research is limited

and in conflict requires an exceptional committee and staff. The committee

has spent the past two years learning about research and data on

firearms and seeking to learn from each other how our disciplines evaluate

and use this knowledge. It is only because committee members had diverse

backgrounds, uncommon respect for each other, and a willingness to apply

common scientific standards to our deliberations that we were able to

complete our work in what I think is an exceptional manner. Some may

disagree with our analysis, but none can question our effort to raise the

science of firearms research so that it can begin to inform public policy. I

thank committee members for their work and patience.

Needless to say, the staff for the committee carried a very heavy load.

Without them we would have not been able to complete our work. John

Pepper in particular deserves special recognition as the study director. John

not only provided outstanding staff support but he also helped form the

structure of our report, edited and contributed to many of the chapters, was

the primary drafter of one chapter, and always managed to see a way

forward when we seemed stymied. Carol Petrie, staff director of the Committee

on Law and Justice, provided invaluable insight into the way we

could deal with controversial topics, helped keep us on track, and edited

every chapter. Brenda McLaughlin, research associate, provided valuable

assistance, and Michelle McGuire, program assistant, and Ralph Patterson,

senior project assistant, performed superbly.

The committee is grateful to Anthony Braga, Harvard University, whose

work as a consultant to the committee throughout its period of operation

was invaluable. And the committee wants to thank Christine McShane, of

the Division on Social and Behavioral Sciences and Education, for her

invaluable assistance in preparing the manuscript for review and publication.

She provided clear and sensible guidance on chapter and appendix

organization, and she did an outstanding job of editing the entire report,

several times.

The committee could not have completed its work without the assistance

of many scholars and policy officials who gave unstintingly of their

time and shared their resources, their work, and their thinking. To gather

information on a variety of subjects from a diversity of perspectives, we

held four public workshops: the Workshop on Firearms Research and Data,

August 30-31, 2001; the Workshop on Intentional Injuries and Firearms,

November 15-16, 2001; the Workshop on Self-Defense, Deterrence and

Firearm Markets, January 16-17, 2002; and the Workshop on Firearm

Injury Prevention and Intervention, May 28-29, 2002. We thank all of the

individuals who served as presenters and discussants at these meetings.

They are listed here alphabetically, and with their affiliations at the time of

each workshop: Roseanna Ander, Joyce Foundation; J. Lee Annest, Centers

for Disease Control and Prevention; Arthur Berg, Harvard University; Paul

Blackman, National Rifle Association; Alfred Blumstein, Carnegie Mellon

University; David Bordua, University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign; Anthony

Braga, Harvard University; David Brent, University of Pittsburgh;

Stephen Bronars, University of Texas, Austin; Philip Cook, Duke University;

Patti Culross, David and Lucile Packard Foundation; Peter Cummings,

University of Washington; Mike Dowden, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,

and Firearms; Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University; Scott Gast, University of

Virginia; Susan Ginsburg, Independent Consultant; Robert Hahn, Centers

for Disease Control and Prevention; Marjorie Hardy, Eckerd College;

Stephen Hargarten, Medical College of Wisconsin; David Hemenway,

Harvard University; Sally Hillsman, Office of Research and Evaluation,

National Institutes of Justice; David Kennedy, Harvard University; Gary

Kleck, Florida State University; Christopher Koper, University of Pennsylvania;

Colin Loftin, State University of New York-Albany; John Lott Jr.,

American Enterprise Institute; Jens Ludwig, Georgetown University; John

Malone, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; Michael Maltz, University

of Illinois, Chicago; David McDowall, State University of New

York-Albany; James Mercy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

Victoria Ozonoff, Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Glenn

Pierce, Northeastern University; Jeffrey Roth, University of Pennsylvania;

Eric Sevigny, Carnegie Mellon University; Lawrence Sherman, University of

Pennsylvania; Kevin Strom, Research Triangle Institute; Stephen Teret,

Johns Hopkins University; Robyn Thiemann, U.S. Department of Justice;

Douglas Weil, The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence; Timothy

Wheeler, Claremont Institute; Brian Wiersema, University of Maryland;

Deanna Wilkinson, Temple University; James Wright, University of Central

Florida; and Franklin Zimring, University of California.

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for

their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures

approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research

Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid

and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the

published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets

institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the

study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential

to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.

We thank the following individuals for their participation in the review

of this report: Esther Duflo, Department of Economics, Massachusetts

Institute of Technology; John A. Ferejohn, Hoover Institution,

Stanford University; Arthur S. Goldberger, Department of Economics,

University of Wisconsin; Lawrence Gostin, Georgetown University Law

Center; Ken Land, Department of Sociology, Duke University; Steven

Messner, Department of Sociology, University of Albany, State University

of New York; Jeffrey Miron, Department of Economics, Boston University;

Lee N. Robins, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University

School of Medicine; Paul Rosenbaum, Department of Statistics, Wharton

School, University of Pennsylvania; Arlene Rubin Stiffman, School of Social

Work, Washington University; and Michael Tonry, Institute of Criminology,

University of Cambridge.

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive

comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions

or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its

release. The review of this report was overseen by Elaine Larson, School of

Nursing, Columbia University, and Christopher Sims, Department of Economics,

Princeton University. Appointed by the National Research Council,

they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination

of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional

procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility

for the final content of this report rests entirely with the

authoring committee and the institution.

Charles F. Wellford, Chair

Committee on Improving Research

Information and Data on Firearms