UCLA researchers awarded $596,000 grant by national collaborative on gun violence research to address gaps in gun use and help improve policies

Grant awarded to advance knowledge on gun violence related to firearm ownership, storage practices 

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UCLA CHPR Communications Team

Ninez Ponce, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and Michael Rodriguez, professor and vice chair in the Department of Family Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, have been awarded a three-year, $596,171 grant by the National Collaborative for Gun Violence Research to advance knowledge on gun violence related to firearm ownership, storage practices, and perceptions of gun safety, and fill critical data gaps about risk factors for gun suicide and urban gun violence related to understudied and disproportionately impacted subpopulations such as youth/young adults, veterans, immigrants, and LGBT people.

Ponce and Rodriguez’s study is among $7.5 million in grants announced by the Collaborative for 15 research projects that will produce evidence for improving gun policy in America. The grants build on a recent revival of gun violence research funding. In July 2019, the Collaborative awarded an initial round of $9.8 million to 17 research projects. Then, for the first time in more than 20 years, the federal government committed $25 million to support gun violence research at the end of 2019.

“Research has a critical role to play in informing effective gun policy,” said Rodriguez, who serves as co-director of the UCLA Firearm Violence Prevention Center. “We are excited to be part of this new wave of gun policy research, especially given the rigorous standards set by the Collaborative.”

Ponce and Rodriguez’s study was selected from among 48 full proposals invited by the Collaborative after receiving 238 letters of interest responding to its proposal request.

This research is aimed at improving the understanding of socioeconomic, demographic, and environmental risk and protective factors associated with gun ownership, firearm storage practices, and nonfatal suicidal behavior in California by adding a firearms module in the 2021 and 2022 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the largest population-based state survey in the nation, which annually collects information on 20,000 adults and adolescents representative of the diverse California population.

Attached to over 200 questions on sociocultural domains, social determinants of health, mental health, suicide ideation and health status, health access and health behavior, and neighborhood safety and social cohesion, the CHIS will identify intervenable individual, family, and neighborhood factors associated with risk factors for gun homicides and suicides. The data will be made available to researchers and the public through multiple dissemination tools, including policy briefs on gun issues in key population groups: youth and young adults, immigrants, LGBT, and veterans.

Ponce, the principal investigator of CHIS and a health researcher with more than 25 years of experience, recognizes the complexity of gun violence and its impact on the health of the nation’s communities.

“Taking a public health approach is vital in addressing the root causes of violence and how they contribute to the devastating premature deaths of thousands of people in the U.S. each year,” Ponce said.

Collaborative Director Andrew Morral noted that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, both sales of firearms and deaths from gun violence have increased across the country—underscoring the urgent need for rigorous research that can inform effective gun policy. “We must answer the question: What works and what doesn’t to reduce gun violence?” Morral said. “Studies like Dr. Ponce and Dr. Rodriguez’s fill a critical gap in our understanding of gun violence and how to prevent it.”

“We selected these research projects based first and foremost on their scientific rigor,” said Frank M. Clark, chair of the Research Advisory Committee and past chair of the Chicago Board of Education. “That is the only way to generate the evidence necessary for informing policy that both protects the public and preserves the rights of responsible gun owners.”

Gun violence is one of the five leading causes of death among Americans aged 1-64 and yet, compared with other major causes of death and injury, the federal government has invested far less in research to prevent gun violence than for other leading causes of death.

The Collaborative funds rigorous scientific research with direct relevance to firearm-violence reduction in the United States. It was seeded with a $20 million gift from Arnold Ventures and has been supported by contributions from other organizations, including Wells Fargo, Missouri Foundation for Health, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. For more information, go to www.ncgvr.org.

The David Geffen School of Medicine is an internationally recognized leader in research, medical education, and patient care. It includes 2,000 full-time faculty members, almost 1,300 residents, more than 750 medical students and almost 400 Ph.D. candidates.

The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 690 students from 25 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.

About the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) is one of the nation’s leading health policy research centers and the premier source of health policy information for California. UCLA CHPR improves the public’s health through high quality, objective, and evidence-based research and data that informs effective policymaking. UCLA CHPR is the home of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) and is part of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. For more information, visit healthpolicy.ucla.edu.