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UC Davis studies on gun violence could shape future policy

These studies are among the first to come out of the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center which was founded in 2017.

DAVIS, Calif. — The University of California, Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) published three studies this week on issues relating to preventing gun violence. They are among the first studies under the umbrella of the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center (UCFC). 

The UCFC was founded in 2017 to address the gaps in knowledge on firearm violence and its prevention. It is the first state-funded center of its kind.

The first study looks into why flaws in the design and implementation of background checks. The study identifies some of these shortcomings as under-reporting of events in criminal history databases, the release of firearms before checks are completed, poor definition of events that would prevent a firearm purchase, and overly-narrow criteria prohibiting purchases.

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The second study looks at the relationship between intimate partner violence and alcohol abuse. It found that among legal handgun owners in California, a DUI conviction with no other convictions was associated with nearly a 300 percent increase in the risk of a domestic violence arrest. It also found gun purchasers most at risk were those with a prior DUI conviction and additional arrests or other convictions for other offenses.

The third study gauged public opinion when it comes to conversations between doctors and patients about gun violence. Rocco Pallin, a research data analyst with the UC Davis VPRP authored the study.

"We conducted the first study of its kind, a large state-representative survey in October of last year and included questions about the appropriateness of health care providers talking with patients about gun safety," explained Pallin. "We found that the majorities of respondents found that these conversations are appropriate when a patient has a risk factor for firearm safety or lives with someone who has a risk factor for firearm safety."

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In fact, the study found that four out of five respondents said it was at least sometimes appropriate when a patient with gun access had thoughts of self-harm or harming others.

Forty percent of gun owners who participated in the study said gun safety conversations were never appropriate in general compared to 20 percent of those who did not own guns. Yet, when risk for gun-related harm was raised, few differences existed between the two groups.

These three studies by the UC Davis VPRP are the result of the state allocating public funds for gun violence prevention research. Since 1996, the Dickey Amendment has prohibited federal funding from going to such research.

“Prior to 1996, when the Dickey Amendment was passed, there was some work being done on this topic and then when that funding fell away,” said Pallin. “There wasn’t a way for researchers just to many researchers to stay engaged in that kind of work.”

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Pallin hopes her research will be used to create evidence-based policy.

“Whether that means working with policymakers and evaluating policies for violence prevention and firearm violence prevention or developing interventions and evaluating those interventions so we have the most evidence-based prevention strategies,” said Pallin. “And then we can start to put those in place in California and then hopefully those will serve as models throughout the country.”

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