NIH awards $4.9M to study firearm injuries in children

In the wake of recent mass shootings, the National Institutes of Health has established the largest grant to fund firearm research awarded in the last 30 years, according to Science.

Five things to know:

1. Rebecca Cunningham, MD, professor of emergency medicine at Ann Arbor, Mich.-based University of Michigan Medical School, will co-direct  a study with Marc Zimmerman, PhD, UM public health professor. Together they will lead 27 scientists from different institutions to conduct research that ends in 2022.

2. Dr. Cunningham told Science she witnessed the abuse of her mother by her father as a child and is convinced her mother would have been killed by him if there had been a gun in their household. After her mom put her dad out of the house and sent two siblings to live elsewhere, she bought a handgun to protect the two of them from her father. Dr. Cunningham said she often wonders if having the gun in the house made her and her mom safer after her dad was put out. Research on questions such as these has been inconclusive.

3. The grant amounts to $4.9 million from the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for a five-year project building capacity for researching firearm injuries in kids.

4. Guns are the second leading cause of pediatric deaths in the U.S. after motor vehicle crashes as of the most recent data published in 2016. In 2016, guns killed 3,150 people from the ages of 1 to 19, according to the CDC.

5. In 1996, Congress passed legislation  preventing the CDC from spending money "to advocate or promote gun control." But after the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting, Congress allowed the CDC "to probe the causes of gun violence," according to Science.

6. The NIH research grant is designed to establish the questions that need to be answered before any research is conducted. In the words of University of California-Davis gun violence researcher Garen Wintemute, the award sets up "an infrastructure that would allow a lot of projects to be done."  

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