Turning Research into Advocacy
We use rigorous scientific research to advance expand evidence-based policies and programs
The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions (the Center) uses research to inform advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels. Our mission is to bridge the gap between researchers and lawmakers and enact evidence-informed policy to make gun violence rare and abnormal. Our Center, which is comprised of research and advocacy experts, has several key policy and programmatic priorities, including:
- Supporting states to pass firearm purchaser licensing laws
- Passing firearm removal laws like extreme risk protection orders and domestic violence protection orders, and ensuring equitable and efficient implementation
- Addressing community gun violence through effective intervention programs
- Prioritizing firearm suicide prevention through behavior and policy change
- Supporting strong public carry laws
- Promoting safe firearm storage practices through child access prevention laws
- Increasing public funding for gun violence prevention through research and offices of gun violence prevention
- Preventing illegal gun trafficking through policies that hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable
The Center for Gun Violence Solutions combines the expertise of highly respected gun violence researchers with the skills of deeply experienced gun violence prevention advocates. We use a public health approach to conduct rigorous scientific research to identify a range of innovative solutions to gun violence.
The Center takes a four-pronged approach to evidence and equity-informed advocacy. Our advocacy approach has helped advance gun violence prevention policies across the United States, including, among other things, firearm removal laws in California, an Office of Gun Violence Prevention in Colorado, and reporting for lost and stolen firearms in Virginia.
Research is critical in public health and advocacy. The Center is committed to supporting policies backed by evidence that will promote equity and wellbeing for all. Our researchers are among the most respected in the field, and as such, data guides our advocacy agenda. In addition to research about effective and equitable policies, research in the advocacy context must also extend to analyze who has the power to make the policy change that we seek.
2. Strategic engagement
Rarely is policy change accomplished by one individual or group. Bringing a diverse group of stakeholders together, bound by a common understanding of the problem and a mutually agreed upon solution, is a key component to successful advocacy campaigns. Strategic engagement is the process by which we build partnerships to support a common goal. We bring academics and community partners in impacted communities together to build a collective agenda. The Center strongly believes that we are more effective advocates when we understand and incorporate a wide variety of perspectives.
Communication is a critical component to advancing evidence-informed, equitable solutions that can save lives. Though we are part of an academic institution, we do not shy away from communications about the policy implications of our research, and actively seek opportunities to engage with key decision makers and media influencers. Additionally, we seek to use communications to build support for solutions among the general public. We utilize a myriad of communication channels at our disposal and fully engage in the ever changing world of social media in order to ensure connection to a wide audience.
Laws do not implement themselves. Passing a law or creating a new program is not where the work ends—it’s where it really begins. Unless stakeholders know about the law and are prepared to use it, the benefits will not materialize. Our advocacy continues into the implementation phase, where we educate and train stakeholders how to use what we've created. For instance, we helped pass Extreme Risk Protection Order laws in almost 20 states and then worked to educate law enforcement, medical and public health professionals, and violence prevention advocates on how to use the new law.
Engaging Impacted Communities
Our Center believes we must engage impacted communities—specifically communities of color—in every step of the advocacy process to reduce gun violence in all its forms. Using a public health and equity framework, we partner with impacted communities to tackle both the root causes of violence and the unregulated access to firearms that fuels it. Through our Engaging Impacted Communities program we develop authentic relationships with community leaders and organizers, facilitate advocacy workshops, and provide tailored technical assistance.
Center faculty participated in an event co-hosted by American Public Health Association and the Bloomberg American Health Initiative to share scientific data behind gun violence prevention policies. Implementing existing evidence-based interventions and policy solutions now can save lives and prevent harm.
Public Opinion Polling
The Center utilizes public opinion polling and other research to better understand trends in gun ownership, attitudes towards firearms carrying, and other issues related to guns and gun violence in the United States. Public opinion polling helps to inform advocacy and the polling results can help show lawmakers that the majority of Americans, including gun owners, support various evidence-informed gun violence prevention policies.
Johns Hopkins researchers have tracked Americans’ support through the Johns Hopkins National Survey of Gun Policy for nearly a decade, administering the survey every two years dating back to 2013. The results from these surveys indicate broad support for many gun violence prevention policies among both non-gun owners and gun owners, and, across political affiliation and geographic regions. Trends over time suggest growing national support for a number of policies to reduce the toll of gun violence in the U.S.
The Center is working on synthesizing survey responses for the most recent wave of data fielded in January 2021. More information will be shared soon.
A national survey fielded in 2019 demonstrated that
Support universal background checks.
Of Americans support handgun purchaser licensing laws.
Support for family-initiated ERPO.
Support for requiring someone to lock up their guns when not in use.
The Center is committed to promoting innovative policy solutions that can improve public safety and reduce gun violence. One such solution is requiring gun manufacturers to include microstamping technology in all new semi-automatic pistols produced. Microstamping imprints a code on a bullet’s cartridge case each time the gun is fired. This code is linked to the serial number of the firearm allowing law enforcement to quickly link cartridge cases found at crime scenes to the firearm used in a crime. Microstamping works in a similar manner to the process law enforcement uses a license plate to quickly identify the make, model, VIN, and registered owner of a car.
Microstamping is effective, easy to implement, and can be mass produced. Staff at the Center have played an instrumental role in educating policymakers and public safety stakeholders about this technology. They have issued reports on microstamping, convened stakeholders, and helped introduce and pass microstamping requirements in multiple states.
Safer States Initiative
The Safer States Initiative is equipping gun violence prevention leaders in states and communities across the country with the policy expertise and capacity they need to continue to create change. While limited movement has occurred on the federal level, state and local organizations have secured some of the most important victories, saving lives in communities across the country.
Even after great successes with few resources, many state and community gun violence prevention leaders and organizations continue to face many barriers. By investing in state and community leaders who already possess the local expertise and relationships needed, we will build partnerships, elevate the people most directly impacted by gun violence within the gun violence prevention movement, and create safer states and communities through life-saving policies and laws.
“The investment and expertise from the Safer States Initiative has helped us expand our impact as a leader in this issue in Delaware, and nationally. We received crucial, highly informed guidance on a variety of issues, including evidence and equity-informed policy, data collection, and programming.”
Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence
Safer States Initiative Network
- Ceasefire PA
- Citizen Action NY
- Colorado Ceasefire
- Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence
- DC Justice Lab
- Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence
- New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence
- New Yorkers Against Gun Violence
- North Carolinians Against Gun Violence
- One Aim Illinois
- Progress Michigan
- Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort
- Whitney Strong
The Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy (Consortium) is comprised of experts committed to advancing evidence-based gun violence prevention policies. The group includes the nation’s leading researchers and academics with expertise at the intersections of gun violence prevention and public health, law, behavioral health, medicine, criminology, and related fields. Though they are separate entities, the Consortium is organized and staffed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.
The Consortium convenes regularly to develop evidence-based gun violence prevention policies. In turn, policymakers have come to rely upon the Consortium’s recommendations to craft legislation and executive action and to inform implementation efforts which continue to shape the policy landscape of the gun violence prevention movement.
The Consortium is best known for its development of the extreme risk protection order policy, or ERPO, a state law that provides law enforcement and, depending on the jurisdiction, family members, health professionals, and school administrators, among others, a formal legal process to temporarily reduce an individual’s access to firearms if they pose a danger to themselves or others.
Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the national conversation around preventing gun violence focused on mental illness. To examine the potential relationship between mental illness and gun violence, the nation’s leading researchers, practitioners, and advocates in gun violence prevention, public health, law, and mental health joined to form the Consortium. Since its founding, the Consortium has updated its ERPO recommendations, including in a March 2021 report entitled, “Extreme Risk Protection Orders: New Recommendations for Policy and Implementation.”
The Consortium has also published reports on evidence-based recommendations for state and federal policy, best practices for firearm removal in cases of domestic violence, guidelines for practice and training in lethal means safety counseling for firearm suicide prevention, and partnered with the Center and five other groups to develop the report and accompanying tool, Racial Equity Framework for Gun Violence Prevention.
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Life-saving solutions exist. We can make gun violence rare and abnormal.