Mass shootings in America: U-M experts available
The University of Michigan has several faculty experts who can discuss the United States’ epidemic of mass shootings.
April Zeoli is the policy core director at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention. Her interdisciplinary research—which aims to bring together the fields of public health, criminology and criminal justice—is focused on firearm policies that restrict high-risk individuals from purchase and possession of guns and those that facilitate the implementation of firearm restriction policies.
“These recent multiple victim and mass shootings underscore the need to use all the tools available to us to work to prevent them,” she said. “Often, shooters reveal their intentions and dangerousness to others before the events.
“In these cases, an extreme risk protection order, which some call red flag laws, may be an effective way to ensure that a dangerous person does not have access to guns. My research shows that extreme risk protection orders are being used in cases of multiple victim and mass shooting threats to safeguard the public. However, there are certainly missed opportunities for extreme risk protection orders to be used. We need to focus on identifying truly dangerous individuals and ensuring that they do not have access to firearms.”
Hsing-Fang Hsieh, research assistant professor at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, seeks to understand disparities in firearm injury and chronic conditions resulting from racism and violence exposure. She also examines behavioral, interpersonal and community factors that promote resilience among communities shouldering the unjust burden of violence and racism.
“How do hate crimes, racial and ethnic segregation and disparity in health service access come to influence the health and firearm injury risk of Asian Americans faced with discrimination?” she said. “What kind of positive factors may mitigate the harm of racism and prevent firearm-related injury? These are the things we want and need to learn from our communities to inform preventive efforts.”
Justin Heinze, associate professor of health behavior and health education, currently leads several National Institute of Justice-funded studies focused on school safety and violence prevention. He also serves as faculty lead for the School of Public Health’s IDEAS initiative for preventing firearm injuries and is part of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention.
“In the past decade, we’ve seen a steady rise in the number of mass shootings in the U.S. with the highest number of events recorded in the past three years,” he said. Unfortunately, our understanding of the predictors of mass shootings—the who, the why, when and/or where—and the most effective strategies we might use to prevent them hasn’t kept apace.
“There are promising approaches ranging from threat assessment and extreme risk protection or domestic violence restraining orders to detection strategies such as leakage and predictive analytics to more upstream, community-focused approaches such as community violence intervention programs and improving access to services. We need to see more widespread adoption of firearm violence prevention initiatives to tease out which are the most effective at preventing mass shootings and why.”
Marc Zimmerman, co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and professor of public health and psychology, is a leading researcher and thought leader on firearm injury prevention with a focus on community empowerment.
“The recent events demonstrate the complexity of firearm violence and show the urgent need to address this epidemic with multifaceted evidence-based solutions,” he said. “Although these mass shooting events are horrific, we should not forget about the victims of other forms of firearm-related injury such as suicide, intimate partner violence and community violence, which are occurring every day.
“Unfortunately, mass shooting events … are a reminder that we need to address the firearm violence epidemic just as we do to cure disease or reduce injury, apply scientific methods and conduct research to establish data driven evidence-based solutions.”
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Patrick Carter is co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and associate professor of emergency medicine and public health. His expertise lies in firearm injury prevention across the spectrum of research, from understanding the epidemiology of the problem to prevention-focused solutions for at-risk individuals and communities.
“The incidents of the past few days continue to demonstrate the urgent need that exists to address this complex public health issue using an array of multidisciplinary data-driven solutions that collectively can work to prevent and reduce the tragic number of firearm deaths and injuries that occur annually,” he said.
“We need to continue to increase the focus on firearm injury prevention by identifying key aspects underlying this public health problem and developing and implementing evidence-based solutions that focus on achieving our common goals of decreasing firearm death and injury.”
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Jason Goldstick is a research associate professor at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and in emergency medicine and public health. He has extensive expertise in statistical analyses, especially as it applies to substance use, injury/violence data and public health research.
“It’s no coincidence that firearm mortality rates are orders of magnitude higher in the U.S. than in other industrialized nations,” he said. “In fact, firearm injuries are the leading cause of death among children and teens in the U.S. as of 2020. Work is needed at every level—determining why this problem is specific to the U.S. and how to address it—to change that.”
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