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Gun Violence Research Center Coming To UC Davis' Sacramento Campus

Seth Perlman / AP

Seth Perlman / AP

University of California President Janet Napolitano announced Monday her intent to establish the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis’ Sacramento campus under the direction of Garen Wintemute, an emergency department physician and recognized authority on the epidemiology of firearm violence who has conducted leading-edge research for more than 30 years.

The new center, funded with an appropriation of $5 million over the next five years from the state of California, will build on unique resources already in place at UC Davis for conducting transformative violence-prevention research and draw on the power of other UC campuses and beyond to provide the scientific evidence that informs the development of effective prevention policies and programs.

“The state’s decision to provide public funding for a center to study firearm violence — the first of its kind in the nation — demonstrates great leadership by the state and presents a unique opportunity for the University of California to be at the forefront of researching a growing public health issue,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano also said she was designating UC Davis as the lead campus for the firearm violence research center with the expectation that experts from other UC campuses will contribute to the effort.

“It is important that we draw upon the power of all the campuses to help tackle this issue,” she said.

UC Davis will take the lead in developing a comprehensive, multicampus plan for the new center, which will be submitted to the Office of the President for approval by Oct. 15. The plan will propose and prioritize initial research projects, develop a timeline for accepting applications for small grants, outline efforts to increase philanthropic support to sustain the research, and define an annual operating budget and structure for reporting activities and accomplishments.

An advisory board that includes scholars, law enforcement officials, elected officials and other experts in the area of firearm violence also will be established to provide research input.

“UC Davis has a long track record on firearm violence research and is well-positioned to direct a collaborative center,” said UC Davis Acting Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter. “Through the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program, established in 1989, Dr. Wintemute and his team have consistently generated hard, scientific data that have made clear connections between factors that increase gun violence as well as effective risk-reduction measures."

“Over the years, they also have developed strong and productive partnerships with federal, state and local policymakers, as well as law enforcement agencies, policy research institutes, co-investigators at many other leading universities and violence prevention coalitions. It is on this firm foundation that the new UC firearm research center is being built,” he said.

State funding dedicated for firearm violence research is unprecedented and important, experts say.

“Funding for violence prevention research is crucial now, as we have a lot of catching up to do,” said Wintemute. “For more than 20 years, there has been moratorium on funding firearm research at the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. Lack of a federal funding stream has prevented a full understanding of the root causes of violence and effective approaches to contain it. We are thrilled that UC Davis will be the lead campus for the new center. Firearm violence is a major problem, and we’re ready to get to work.”

State Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), the lawmaker who led the effort to fund the dedicated center, believes applying the rigors of scientific methodology is essential to reducing the tragic consequences of firearm violence in America.

“Research from UC Davis’ violence prevention research program has guided policymakers here in the Legislature and other state agencies for many years,” Wolk said. “We need to ensure that this important work continues despite Congressional restrictions on funding firearms research.”

Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D. Calif.) agrees.

“We need to begin treating gun violence in this country like the epidemic it has become,” Matsui said. “That starts with putting the funding and resources needed toward research that will allow us to close the gap in our understanding of why so many Americans die from gun-related injuries each year. The UC Firearm Violence Research Center on UC Davis’ Sacramento campus will be extremely important in this effort.”