By Sabrina L. Miller
For more than a quarter century, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have built a global reputation for pursuing data and policy to reduce gun violence, shifting our understanding of the issue from solely a crime problem to a public health epidemic needing evidence-based, community-oriented solutions.
The team marked its 25th anniversary this year with a new strategy focused more intently on diversity, equity and community involvement, and with a new name that reflects its commitment to turning data-driven analysis into effective action – the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy.
The center has trained a new generation of researchers and advocates now pursuing their own answers and solutions at the University of California, Davis, Michigan State University, the University of Colorado, and elsewhere. The alumni came together with community, law enforcement and political leaders to help celebrate the center’s success at a virtual 25th anniversary symposium.
“Gun violence prevention -- like all of public health -- is about solving problems,” said Daniel Webster, the center’s director. “That problem-solving process always uses sound data and science, and empowers those who are most directly impacted.”
Since the peak of the country’s gun violence crisis in the 1990s, the center – now part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health -- has had a profound impact on shaping policy and saving lives through its study of homicide and suicide rates, background checks, firearms licensing, intimate partner violence, and extreme-risk protection orders.
In 2013, a month after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the center hosted a summit of worldwide experts on reducing gun violence. The ideas that emerged helped strengthen gun laws in multiple states, including Maryland, which banned the sale of assault weapons and strengthened provisions for handgun purchaser licensing and regulatory oversite of gun dealers.
In the Great Lakes region, its work included a white paper designed to guide policy to reduce gun violence in Illinois, providing a 10-step approach to strengthening gun laws in the state.
The center’s expertise informed a recent Joyce Foundation report laying out 100 most-critical next research questions, including how to address inequities behind community violence by including input from the communities themselves.
“With targeted research, thoughtful evaluations, and – importantly – intentional prioritization of the voices most impacted by this violence, we can give cities a toolkit of effective approaches to sustainably reduce it,” said Shani Buggs, a Johns Hopkins-trained researcher now working at UC, Davis.
The center has developed a first-ever, free online course on gun violence prevention And in 2019 it began organizing a Summer Youth Institute to enlist yet another generation in identifying solutions based in science.
“Through the Summer Youth Institute,” said Lea Nepomuceno, a participant featured in the symposium, “I learned the importance of using evidence towards igniting change, and the effect statistics and data can have in advocacy.”
“The center has never rested. It’s always sought ways to expand and tackle new issues – for example, how to use technology to reduce gun violence, better understanding the views of gun owners, and including community and neighborhood voices.” Joyce Foundation President Ellen Alberding
The Joyce Foundation has supported Johns Hopkins’ research into gun violence prevention since 1993.
About The Joyce Foundation
Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.