1 Executive Summary

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There is hardly a more contentious issue in American politics than the

ownership of guns and various proposals for gun control. Each year tens

of thousands of people are injured and killed by firearms; each year

firearms are used to defend against and deter an unknown number of acts

of violence; and each year firearms are widely used for recreational purposes.

For public authorities to make reasonable policies on these matters,

they must take into account conflicting constitutional claims and divided

public opinion as well as facts about the relationship between guns and

violence. And in doing so they must try to strike what they regard as a

reasonable balance between the costs and the benefits of private gun ownership.

Adequate data and research are essential to judge both the effects of

firearms on violence and the effects of different violence control policies.

Those judgments are key to many important policy questions, among them:

Should regulations restrict who may possess and carry a firearm? Should

regulations differ for different types of firearms? Should purchases be delayed

and, if so, for how long and under what circumstances? Should

restrictions be placed on the number or types of firearms that can be purchased?

Should safety locks be required? While there is a large body of

empirical research on firearms and violence, there is little consensus on even

the basic facts about these important policy issues.

Given the importance of these issues and the continued controversy surrounding

the debate on firearms, the Committee to Improve Research Information

and Data on Firearms was charged with providing an assessment of

the strengths and limitations of the existing research and data on gun violence

and identifying important gaps in knowledge; describing new methods to put

research findings and data together to support the design and implementation

of improved prevention, intervention, and control strategies for reducing

gun-related crime, suicide, and accidental fatalities; and utilizing existing

data and research on firearms and firearm violence to develop models of

illegal firearms markets. The charge also called for examining the complex

ways in which firearm violence may become embedded in community life and

considering whether firearm-related homicide and suicide have become accepted

as ways of resolving problems, especially among youth. However,

there is a lack of empirical research to address these two issues.