Grassroots gift will support new gun violence research

Grassroots gift will support new gun violence research

By: HIPRC Date: September 25th, 2017
Grandmothers Against Gun Violence President Margaret Heldring, right, introduces HIPRC Violence Section lead Dr. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar.

Grandmothers Against Gun Violence presented the University of Washington with a $10,000 donation to support firearm violence prevention research conducted by Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center violence prevention section lead Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, M.D., Ph.D., MPH at their Sept. 22 meeting.

The contribution will fund new analysis into the relationship between mental health, substance use and firearm safe storage through the Gun and Responsibility and Injury Prevention Research Fund at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.

“We believe that findings of this research directly inform practice and policy,” he said of planned outcomes for the new research. “At the end of the day, we are in the business of saving lives. That’s really what matters.”

With the funding, Rowhani-Rahbar and master’s student Erin Morgan from the Department of Epidemiology in the UW School of Public Health will parse recent data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System regarding gun ownership and storage in Washington state. The BRFSS is the longest running health-related phone survey in the country, collecting data on a broad range of health and behavior topics.

Washington’s BRFSS survey recently added questions related to gun ownership and safe storage, and Rowhani-Rahbar said the new data will allow researchers to examine the relationship between mental health, substance use and firearm safe storage. The interaction between these factors has not been studied in the United States using BRFSS data for more than a decade, and the new analysis will provide an invaluable, up-to-date perspective on how these variables relate to gun violence in Washington.

While federal funding available for gun violence research has been heavily limited by government policy for two decades, Rowhani-Rahbar said contributions like the one from GAGV are part of an increasingly robust network of local funding sources for this type of research.

“Washington State has really been a role-model for the rest of the country,” he said.

Both Washington and Seattle have become more involved in funding gun violence research and prevention programs in recent years.

GAGV President Margaret Heldring said the contribution represents the organization’s long-time goal to financially support gun violence research.

“We very much want to be constructing evidence-based policies – policies that will actually make a difference in saving lives,” she said.

From left, HIPRC Violence Prevention section lead Dr. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and GAGV President Margaret Heldring discussed the importance of research to curbing gun violence. Photo courtesy of UW School of Public Health.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also spoke at the event, outlining his support for policies and programs that support responsible gun ownership and stronger, community-based mental healthcare. He also noted the key role research has played in understanding gun violence, especially when it comes to firearms and suicide.

“We are not powerless in the face of gun violence,” he said.

Grandmothers Against Gun Violence is an organization that “works collaboratively with other groups to reduce gun violence and remedy the complex societal factors that contribute to a culture of gun violence,” according to their mission statement. They are a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that promotes civic engagement around policies intended to reduce gun violence. The group was founded in 2012 in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

HIPRC does not advocate for or against gun control; the center’s work focuses on providing resources, data and expertise to help guide evidence-based programs and policies to create safer homes and communities as part of Violence Prevention.