Additional Notes on National Institute of Justice Working Group on Firearms and Violence

In my last post I surveyed a series of grants recently awarded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) for research on firearms and violence. These grant solicitations were the product of a Topical Working Group on Firearms and Violence that met in early winter 2011. A report of the working group is available on the NIJ website.

Two particular passages caught my eye. First, the report was quick to highlight that it was not intended to challenge the right to keep and bear arms. It asserted, “Consistent with the theme of the National Research Council’s report on firearms and violence (Wellford, Petrie and Pepper, 2005), the working group’s analysis of research needs recognized the limits articulated in the Supreme Court’s Heller decision (554 U.S. 570, 2008). Nothing in the working group’s discussion or in its analysis of research needs requires or anticipates any changes in the current interpretation of the meaning of the Second Amendment for reducing gun-related crime. Each of the topics discussed below is consistent with the individual right to possess firearms that has been articulated by the Court.”

From The Truth About Guns Defensive Gun Use of the Day
From The Truth About Guns Defensive Gun Use of the Day

Although no projects were funded on this topic, among the topics suggested by the working group were defensive gun uses: “Studies of defensive gun use to date have focused primarily on estimating the number of times guns are used to prevent crimes. The NRC report identified the limitations of these approaches and established what appears to be today a reasonable estimate of the range of the number of times guns are used to prevent crimes. The next step in this research area should focus on the process of defensive gun use. This would be an effort to move beyond an estimation of extent to an understanding of the decision process that occurs during a potential crime in which a potential victim uses a gun to deter the criminal. The same kinds of studies should be undertaken in the topical area of right-to-carry. While the debate continues on the impact of right-to-carry laws on crime, almost no information is available on when and where individuals who have been granted the right to carry a weapon actually use the weapon to deter crime. Nor have there been detailed cost/benefit analyses of the actual use of guns for defensive purposes. Getting into the “black box” of defensive gun use will allow us to move beyond debates about the extent of defensive gun use to an understanding of when and how it happens. This has become even more important with the expansion of “stand your ground laws” which are intended to further establish the legal foundation for defensive gun use.”

Of course, the 2013 and 2014 solicitations have expired, and no projects were funded on defensive gun use. And it may be that no projects on DGU were even proposed. So, it’s not clear whether the NIJ will ever fund a project on DGU. But at least there is some recognition of the importance of this positive use of firearms amid the many negative uses the NIJ working group and the NIJ grants focused on.

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