The nation’s first firearm violence research center will be located at UC Davis’ Sacramento campus, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced Monday.
Garen Wintemute, an ER doctor and experienced gun violence researcher, will lead the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center.
Wintemute’s existing gun-violence research program is the only one in the Western U.S. and he is considered one of the few experts in the field. He established the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program in 1989.
“Funding for violence prevention research is crucial now, as we have a lot of catching up to do,” Wintemute said in a release.
The state legislature voted in June to spend $5 million over the next five years to create the center, which will work to understand the public health problem in the hopes of preventing deaths.
“The state’s decision to provide public funding for a center to study firearm violence — the first of its kind in the nation — demonstrates great leadership by the state and presents a unique opportunity for the University of California to be at the forefront of researching a growing public health issue,” Napolitano said in a release.
UC Davis will take the lead on firearm violence research, but Napolitano said she expects scientists at the other UC campuses to contribute to the research.
“It is important that we draw upon the power of all the campuses to help tackle this issue,” she said.
UC Davis will develop plans for the new center, which the university system hopes to approve by Oct. 15.
The center will train post-doctoral researchers, such as epidemiologists or physicians, who want to study violence. And it will issue small grants to scientists across the country who are conducting firearm-violence prevention research.
An advisory board that includes scholars, law enforcement officials, elected officials and other experts in the area of firearm violence also will be established to provide research input.
Congress ended federal funding for firearm research in 1996, and Wintemute has consequently watched scientists abandon the field over the past two decades. Wintemute has taken to using his own money to fund his research — he has so far donated $1.3 million to the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program, where he is the director.
Now, with the state funding, Wintemute said he is looking forward to expanding his research.
“Lack of a federal funding stream has prevented a full understanding of the root causes of violence and effective approaches to contain it,” he said.
“Firearm violence is a major problem, and we’re ready to get to work.”