The Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers School of Criminal Justice will lead New Jersey’s Center on Gun Violence Research, a new initiative that will focus the university’s expertise in public health, criminal justice and other fields on a nationwide problem.
The Center, directed by Rutgers School of Public Health faculty, Dr. Bernadette C. Hohl, will conduct multi-disciplinary research on the causes, consequences and solutions to firearm-related violence, including homicides, assaults, suicides and accidental shootings.
The center will gather community-level data on gun violence and other public health factors, conduct research on efforts to reduce gun violence across the nation and the world, consider innovative technologies to improve gun safety and create policy recommendations for gun violence prevention and public education.
“It is long past time to take a stand against the scourge of gun violence in our communities,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “Beginning today, New Jersey will have its very own research center to fill the knowledge gap left by the federal government’s inaction and the gun industry’s obstruction. I applaud Rutgers University and the Legislature for helping to make New Jersey a national leader in gun violence research.”
The center will be led by the Rutgers School of Public Health, within Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, and the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University–Newark. It will draw on expertise from across the university, including Rutgers University–New Brunswick and Rutgers University–Camden, in fields such as psychology, sociology, medicine, law, nursing, social work, public policy, engineering and others.
“As New Jersey’s pre-eminent research university and a national leader in addressing key issues facing our society, Rutgers will bring expertise across many disciplines to this bold and comprehensive effort to reduce gun violence,” said Dr. Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. “Our teachers, clinicians and scientists have unparalleled experience in improving our collective wellbeing, and this new research center, among the first of its kind in the nation, will allow us to deliver insights that inform public policies and prevent the tragedies that have become all too common in American society.”
“Rutgers is proud to lead this effort to conduct critical, multi-disciplinary research that will yield new understandings and actionable steps to prevent gun violence and promote the health and safety of our communities in New Jersey and across the country,” said Dr. Hohl, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health, who will serve as the center’s co-director along with Dr. Michael Ostermann, associate professor in the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice.
Dr. Rod K. Brunson, Dean of the Rutgers University–Newark School of Criminal Justice, said his faculty is eager to collaborate on the center’s research and policy development agendas. “A fundamental challenge that Gov. Murphy is issuing with the creation of this center is to bring cross-disciplinary and cross-sector expertise to the table to work on the causes and effects of gun violence, including from communities feeling its effects most intensely. Our faculty, staff and students are well practiced in that kind of collaboration and committed to bringing our knowledge and experience of policing, community dynamics and security technologies and practices to this critically important work.”
“Gun violence exists in the constellation of public health challenges facing our state,” said Rutgers School of Public Health Dean Perry N. Halkitis. “The work of this research center will elevate scholarship and practice to recognize the intersection between gun violence, mental health and other health disparities.”
Gov. Murphy applauded the center’s creation at Rutgers by video at the annual Governor J. Florio Distinguished Scholar Lecture, sponsored by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut and U.S. Navy captain, led the event’s discussion on creating gun violence policy solutions.
The Rutgers-based center’s public health approach to gun violence will include a focus on root causes such as intimate partner violence, interpersonal violence, substance abuse and mental health. The center will consider the individual, community-based and societal factors that place some members of the population at greater risk than others. The center will focus on ways to reduce the incidence of all forms of firearm injury and death, while protecting the rights of legal, safe firearm ownership and use.
Firearm violence remains a public health problem throughout the United States with nearly 100,000 firearm-related incidents annually, about one-third of which end in death. New Jersey, which has more comprehensive firearm laws and fewer deaths than other states, has an average of 475 firearm deaths each year and countless more injuries.
In addition to Drs. Hohl and Ostermann as the center’s co-directors, leadership will include Dr. Paul Boxer, professor of psychology and director of the Rutgers Center on Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice as its Head of Research; Dr. Stephanie L. Bonne, assistant professor of surgery and director of the Hospital Violence Intervention Program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School as Head of Data Surveillance; Dr. Michael Gusmano, associate professor of health policy at Rutgers School of Public Health and a core member of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research as Head of Outreach; and Dr. Elizabeth Sloan Power, associate professor and chair of the Department of Social Work at Rutgers-Newark’s School of Arts and Sciences as Head of Training and Education.