Arnold Foundation Pledges $20M for Gun Violence Research

“We need data, not politics or emotion, to drive our decisions,” foundation co-chair Laura Arnold said in a statement. The new collaborative hopes to raise another $30m from private donors to produce research that will help policymakers.

In an effort to combat the lack of federal financial support for gun violence research, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation has announced the formation of a National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research, backed by a $20 million seed donation.

Partnering with the RAND Corporation, the foundation hopes to use targeted research to help identify solutions to gun-violence issues, according to the collaborative’s prospectus.

“Understandably, gun violence is a deeply emotional issue,” Laura Arnold, co-chair of the foundation, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “Our goal is to provide objective information to guide a rational, fact-based response to a national crisis.

“We need data, not politics or emotion, to drive our decisions.”

The foundation pledged to commit $20 million over five years and is hoping to raise $30 million from other private donors. The money will primarily go toward producing policy-relevant research and publicizing the findings.

The research agenda will be determined by an advisory committee made up of 12 to 15 research experts from a variety of backgrounds. These members will also consult already-existing research and fellow researchers, like the National Research Council of the National Academies, which worked in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Institute of Medicine to identify issues with gun violence in the aftermath of the 2013 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

“Discussions about the best ways to reduce gun violence—suicides, homicides, and accidental injuries—should be based on facts and rigorous, objective analysis,” said Michael D. Rich, president and CEO of RAND, in the statement.

“The National Collaborative is an important step toward building the evidence base needed for constructive debates and effective policymaking.”

More than half a dozen governors announced in April a plan for a Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium to study gun violence after being dissatisfied with what they called Washington’s inaction. The collaborative has been in contact with the Rockefeller Institute of Government, which houses the governors’ consortium, and expects to work collaboratively with the group going forward, according to the Arnold Foundation’s Communications Director David Hebert.

Federal funding for research on gun violence saw a significant downturn in 1996 with the passage of the Dickey Amendment, which prevents the CDC from using funds to “advocate or promote gun control” in any way.

This has helped create a disparity between gun violence’s mortality rates and the amount of gun violence research.

In March, a federal budget bill was accompanied by a statement from the Secretary of Health and Human Services acknowledging that the CDC has the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence.”

This inclusion is promising for future funding, according to Hebert, but it doesn’t take away from the foundation’s current efforts to fund research.

“In the meantime, the initial investment of $20 million by the (Arnold) foundation will help accelerate our understanding of what works to reduce gun violence by generating objective information to guide a rational, fact-based response to a national crisis,” Hebert said in an interview with The Crime Report.

The prospectus emphasized the importance of philanthropic efforts to compensate for a lack of federal funding, citing previous philanthropic research into tobacco use, vehicle safety, and other illnesses.

Hebert expects an advisory committee to be appointed by fall 2018, with a series of Requests for Proposals to be released over the next five years.

Marianne Dodson is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.