The scientific agreement on firearm issues

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Abstract

Introduction

No one has systematically collected the views of firearm researchers to determine if and where agreement exists on the scientific evidence about firearms and firearm violence.

Methods

We send a short monthly on-line survey to firearm researchers. Each survey asks respondents their level of agreement with a statement about firearms, their rating of the quality of the scientific evidence on the specific issue, their familiarity with that literature and their area of expertise. Survey participants are first-authors of a firearms article published in a peer-reviewed journal since 2011. For the first 15 surveys, on average, surveys were sent to 322 researchers, and 109 researchers responded (34% response rate).

Results

Among respondents, approximately 46% were public health researchers and 32% were sociologists/criminologists. Agreement exists among firearm researchers that more guns and weaker gun laws cause serious public health problems, that the costs of gun availability are typically greater than the benefits and that stronger gun laws may improve public safety and health. 84% of researchers agreed, and only 8% disagreed with the statement ‘in the United States, having a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide’. For only three statements did most respondents rate the quality of the scientific evidence as strong or very strong. Overall, there was a higher level of agreement among public health/medicine researchers than among researchers in the other disciplines.

Discussion

Surveys of researchers can provide useful information about agreement on specific issues and about the quality of the scientific evidence.

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