Fifty-five years ago, America’s death toll from automobile crashes was sky-high. Nearly 50,000 people died every year from motor vehicle crashes, at a time when the nation’s population was much smaller than today.
But with help from data generated by legions of researchers, the country’s policymakers and industry made changes that brought the number killed and injured down dramatically.
Research led to changes in everything from road construction and driver’s license rules, to hospital trauma care, to laws and social norms about wearing seatbelts and driving while drunk or using a cell phone. University of Michigan researchers were at the forefront of this work.
Now, researchers hope the country can do the same thing for the nearly 40,000 deaths and tens of thousands of injuries that now result from firearms each year, including homicides, suicides and unintentional incidents.
Back in the headlines
A spate of recent mass shooting incidents, and an announcement from the White House about new actions at the federal level, have brought the issue back into the spotlight amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the research effort is starting almost from scratch, because of a 25-year near-total hiatus on federal research funding for firearm-related studies due to political reasons.
A 2019 U-M Injury Prevention Center study found that on a per-death basis, funding for pediatric firearm research is 30 times lower than it would have to be to keep pace with…