Editorial: Pitt has the ability to curb gun violence

This past week, the National Institutes of Health issued a press release calling for new initiatives to begin research on the causes and prevention of firearms violence.

The move by the NIH is in response to President Barack Obama’s memorandum in January that called for the agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others, to sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and potential ways to prevent it.

The memorandum also called for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to identify and address the most pressing issues of gun violence with the greatest “potential public health impact.” Obama emphasized the public health aspect of gun violence and the challenges authorities face in coping with acts of firearms violence in an effort to start discourse on finding possible solutions. One solution may be to allocate funds to research-based universities, such as Pitt, to facilitate this discourse.

The funding of research projects by NIH begins in fiscal year 2014 and three subsequent years to study “the causes and consequences of violence as it relates to the health of individuals and communities.” Ultimately, the goal of this initiative “is to identify evidence-based strategies for preventing violence and incorporating them into clinical and community settings,” according to a release from the NIH.

The recent funding proposals should come as welcome news for a university such as Pitt. The University’s tenure as a pioneer in research should urge it to pursue grants from the NIH to research the causes of firearms violence.

Pittsburgh has been no stranger to such violent acts: Between 2000-2010, the nation saw 335,609 firearm-related deaths, which is more than the population of Pittsburgh.Since the school-shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn., last December, Slate reports there have been approximately 8,890 deaths by guns nationwide.

Pitt should work with current research initiatives regarding the issue and further that by working interdepartmentally to pursue grants from the NIH. In particular, Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health and the School of Social Work should both be interested in pursuing such research here at Pitt. It is important to find answers to the causes of gun violence not only for ourselves here in Pittsburgh, but for the rest of our nation, as well.

Although a legislative agenda combating gun violence has yet to be passed, research initiatives to at least become more knolwedgeable about firearms violence are essential in proposing more comprehensive reforms.

Pitt’s reputation as a research power inclines it to take advantage of such initiatives in an effort to curb lawless acts of violence.