New firearms safety grants explore reporting systems, safe storage, childhood injuries, more
As part of a broad federal investment focused on reducing firearm-related injuries and deaths, five research teams at the University of Michigan recently received grants totaling $2.1 million to launch new projects that identify the root causes of and find solutions for firearms injuries and deaths in the United States.
The grants from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health were awarded to six U-M researchers affiliated with U-M’s Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention to lead multiple projects focused on specific firearms violence issues, including:
- Prevention strategies for unintentional firearm-related harms in early childhood
- Interventions for suicide prevention
- Strategies to help reduce firearm violence among minority youth
- Firearms injury prevention for rural families
More than 48,000 individuals across the U.S. died in 2021 as a result of firearm injuries, and guns are the leading cause of death nationwide for children and teens ages 1 to 19.
In recent years, federal agencies and foundations have increased funding support for firearms safety and injury prevention research to reverse those statistics. Funded projects and programs explore a range of topics such as identifying underlying causes for gun violence and determining the efficacy of programs and policies implemented to reduce firearm injury outcomes.
“As a university research community, we have an obligation to use our knowledge, skills and partnerships to apply injury prevention science to find solutions that reduce firearm injuries and deaths, ultimately making our communities safer across Michigan and the nation,” said Patrick Carter, co-director of U-M’s Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and associate professor of emergency medicine and of health behavior and health education.
The newly announced CDC grants will fund:
- “Firearm safety and injury prevention during early childhood: A parent engagement approach” (the three-year project will receive $649,828 the first year). Alison Miller, professor at the School of Public Health, and Hsing-Fang Hsieh, research assistant professor and evaluation director for the National Center for School Safety at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, will lead the study to assess parents’ perceptions of risk and engage firearm-owning parents of children age 5 and under in a mixed-methods, community-based project and pilot program on parent-delivered interventions.
- “Rigorous examination of anonymous reporting system data to prevent youth suicide and firearm violence: An applied natural language approach” (the two-year project will receive $350,000 the first year). Justin Heinze, associate professor at the School of Public Health and co-director of the National Center for School Safety, will analyze school-based anonymous and confidential reporting system submissions and characterize the types of tips reported, what factors influence student tip submissions and content, and whether exposure to training influences tip behavior and content.
- “Store Safely: Firearm injury prevention for rural families” (the three-year project will receive $470,325 the first year). Cynthia Ewell Foster, clinical associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and director of the Community Engagement Core within the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, will conduct research in partnership with the Marquette County Health Department. The study will evaluate Store Safely, a multicomponent online primary prevention strategy for rural families who own firearms.
Two NIH grants will go to:
- “Structural racism and youth firearm violence: Socio-ecological mechanisms and resilience (the two-year project will receive a total award of $156,000). Daniel Lee, research assistant professor at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, will examine the social and psychological link between structural racism and youth firearm violence to inform the development of upstream prevention programs.
- “Assessing risk for firearm injury and attitudes about new gun violence prevention laws in Michigan to enhance policy implementation” (the two-year project will receive a total award of $518,106). Brian Hicks, professor in the Department of Psychiatry, with support from senior faculty at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, will provide advanced training and career development for established NIH-supported investigators to obtain the skills and expertise that can be integrated into their firearm injury prevention work and research.
Altogether, the grants and the projects further the work of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, a U-M presidential initiative launched in 2019 with the goal of identifying data-driven solutions to the urgent public health issue of injuries, deaths and other harms caused by firearms.
IFIP fosters collaboration among researchers on campus and off by engaging with partners across the university and in the U-M Health System along with external partners, all looking to answer critical questions about firearm injury prevention.
“The benefit of our institute is that the infrastructure can provide researchers of all levels and within multiple disciplines across the University with the scaffolding necessary to advance their research programs within this field and within their schools,” said Carter, who is also director of the CDC-funded Injury Prevention Center at U-M and part of the leadership team for the NICHD-funded Firearm Safety among Children and Teens, FACTS, Consortium.
“The collaborative efforts of our team allows us to support their efforts to generate new knowledge and advance solutions that will ultimately decrease firearm injury across the United States.”