Major public health journal opens access to gun violence studies

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

If you’ve had trouble as a reporter getting access to major public health studies on gun violence, get ready to dive down a rabbit hole. The American Public Health Association just opened up to the public research related to firearms published in the American Journal of Public Health. Every article published in the journal about gun violence — studies, editorials, commentaries and essays — will soon be available.

One of the biggest obstacles to finding evidence-based solutions to the epidemic of U.S. gun violence is a lack of well-funded research, particularly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since all such research was unfunded by the 1996 Dickey Amendment. (The amendment’s namesake publicly regretted it multiple times before his death last year.) But privately funded research does exist, most often published in public health journals — if journalists can access the full studies.

Every journalist who has used medical research in their reporting has run into the challenge of acquiring medical studies not available to the public. This move is just one journal opening up their archives on gun violence, but it may prompt other journals to do the same. Even if it doesn’t, the AJPH trove is rich with dozens of studies illuminating what we have learned about gun violence.

“In the shadow of decades of intentional and unintentional deaths and injuries from firearms, APHA believes better public access to published, peer-reviewed research on firearms can lead to smarter evidence-based policies that enhance firearm safety and violence prevention,” they wrote in their press release. “With more research and better policy, the public health community hopes to foster more productive conversations and interventions to stop the epidemic of violence in our communities.”

Right now, journalists (and the general public) can access a “select group of high-value research” available here. The organization plans to unlock all research soon and will make all future firearm research freely available. (AHCJ members have long had access to AJPH articles.) Of the lot available, here’s a selection of studies they highlight:

AJPH articles now available to the public include research on the urban-rural differences in firearm suicides, how law enforcement and firearm retailers can serve as partners in suicide prevention, loaded handgun carrying, the financial cost of firearm injury, the effect of state legislation on firearm homicide, interventions to improve safe firearm storage, employer firearm policies and workplace homicide, public opinion on carry laws and the role firearms play in establishing homicide as a leading cause of death for pregnant and postpartum women, among other subjects.”

If you haven’t been covering research on gun violence so far, now is a great time to start.

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