DATA RECOMMENDATIONS

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If policy makers are to have a solid empirical and research base for decisions

about firearms and violence, the federal government needs to support a

systematic program of data collection and research that specifically addresses

that issue. Adverse outcomes associated with firearms, although large in absolute

numbers, are statistically rare events and therefore are not observed with

great frequency, if at all, in many ongoing national probability samples (i.e., on

crime victimization or health outcomes). The existing data on gun ownership,

so necessary in the committee’s view to answering policy questions about

firearms and violence, are limited primarily to a few questions in the General

Social Survey. There are virtually no ongoing, systematic data series on firearms

markets. Aggregate data on injury and ownership can only demonstrate

associations of varying strength between firearms and adverse outcomes of

interest. Without improvements in this situation, the substantive questions in

the field about the role of guns in suicide, homicide and other crimes, and

accidental injury are likely to continue to be debated on the basis of conflicting

empirical findings.