UC Firearm Violence Prevention Research Center receives $5 million appropriation

Katherine Qiu/Staff

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The University of California Firearm Violence Prevention Research Center, located in Sacramento, was launched in July and officially received funding for its research earlier this month.

The center has received a $5 million appropriation from the state for the next five years and aims to prevent firearm violence. Center director and UC Davis professor Garen Wintemute leads the center’s team of researchers from various UC campuses, including UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Los Angeles and UC Berkeley.

Wintemute cited recent mass shootings as evidence of firearm violence, including the Las Vegas shooting earlier this month. On Oct. 1, Stephen Paddock, 64, killed 59 including himself and injured more than 500 people from the window of his room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.

“Our research plan was put forth before the horrible tragedy,” said George Tita, one of the center’s researchers from UC Irvine, in reference to the Las Vegas shooting. “The people who do serious gun violence research are not impacted by extreme events.”

Tita said the center has no results yet, as the funding has just arrived. Wintemute said, however, that the center is planning a descriptive epidemiology study in California, collecting “basic” information, including the rate of gun ownership, the rate of exposure to gun violence and risk factors for being shot.

Wintemute states the team is “multidisciplinary,” adding that UC Irvine is doing a detailed study in Los Angeles County, UCLA is researching intimate partner violence and UC Berkeley is looking at community-level risk factors for firearm violence.

Tita said there is not enough of this research that has been done and that it will apply broadly across different types of gun violence.

“We’re very early in the findings,” Tita said.

Tita is conducting an epidemiological study to look at patterns of gun violence in different areas around the state. He is also examining the illegal firearm market and the process by which guns are sold and used in crimes.

UC Berkeley School of Law professor and Faculty Director of Criminal Justice Studies Franklin Zimring said he is cheering the research center on, adding that state funding is now catching up with existing independent research regarding the issue. Zimring is not a part of the center, but he also researches gun violence in relation to the police — he said he hopes the university’s research center will also examine this dimension of gun violence.

“The state funding is catching up with the research effort,” Zimring said. “The whole point of the new (university research) center is not only to cover front-page headlines but to carefully assess statistically what the major problems are for most deaths and injuries.”

Contact Elise Ulwelling at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @EMarieulwelling.