NIH leaders say they have no plans to revamp lapsed gun violence research program

Directors of two arms of the National Institutes of Health that fund firearm research said they have no intentions to reboot a discontinued gun violence research initiative launched under President Barack Obama in 2012 in the wake of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., according to a report from Science.

The NIH program — titled Research on the Health Determinants and Consequences of Violence and its Prevention, Particularly Firearm Violence — ran from January 2014 to January 2017 and devoted $18 million of the agency's $34 billion annual budget to back more than 20 firearm research projects.

"We probably will issue [a new] funding opportunity announcement, but it will be on violence in general. I don't think we have to specify gun violence," George Koob, PhD, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said at a press conference, according to Science. "Much more important is the interaction of violence and sexual aggression with alcohol."

Joshua Gordon, MD, PhD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said the NIH backs research into multiple causes of violence, but "whether we need additional specific studies on gun violence … that's a question that we will look into but we have not identified that currently as a [research] gap."

While researchers can still apply for funds to conduct firearms research outside of the program, some gun violence researchers have argued this is not enough.

"The lack of support for research on firearm violence, as compared with the magnitude of the problem, is unique," Garen Wintemute, MD, an emergency medicine physician who directs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, told Science via email. "A continued focused effort would be very useful."

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