Studying Gun Violence and Trauma

The Initiative for Studying Gun Violence and Trauma is a national task force focused on expanding awareness, discourse, and public policy on gun violence trauma. Assembled under the aegis of the University of California, Irvine School of Law’s Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy, the task force features a diverse collaboration of lawyers, scholars, physicians, psychologists, and advocates committed to initiating, sustaining, and acting upon this critical discourse.

The state of gun violence in the United States has reached a critical condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2000 and 2014 alone, firearms accounted for nearly 470,000 fatalities. “Homicide firearm” ranked as the second leading cause of all violence-related deaths during this 14-year interval.

With each day, death by gun violence increases. For women, children, and other vulnerable populations, gun violence exacts a particularly devastating toll. Women living in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in any other high-income country.  In a study examining 2010 homicide data, firearms were found to be the weapons most frequently used by males to murder females, with more than 2/3 of these homicides perpetrated by male intimates. The connection between domestic violence and gun violence is a statistically remarkable one: the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent. In fact, over the past 25 years, the number of intimate partner homicides committed via guns is higher than intimate partner homicides involving all other weapons combined. For black women, gun violence statistics reveal a distinctly distressing set of realities. In 2010, the homicide rate for black women, as committed by men, was nearly 2.5 times higher than for white women. Approximately 53% of all 2010 homicides of black women were committed using a gun.

Children are also significantly vulnerable to the effects of gun violence. In 2014, firearm homicide accounted for 46% of violence-related fatalities in children age 5-9, and 38.5% of violence-related fatalities in youths age 15-24. According to a 2009 survey sponsored by the Department of Justice, more than 22% of adolescents age 14 to 17 had witnessed a shooting during their lifetime. For black youths age 15-24, homicide is the leading cause of all incidences of death, violent and non-violent. In addition to experiencing substantial physical devastation, children—especially those multiply marginalized—often bear the psychological brunt of gun violence trauma. Whether as direct victims, firsthand witnesses, or witnesses via screen and word-of-mouth, children exposed to gun violence often suffer substantial emotional and psychological harm. As such, the recent tragedies of Philando Castile and Diamond Reynolds are best understood not only as horrors lived once, but as horrors lived over and over in the countless children who witnessed these tragedies in person, on a screen, or through conversation with friends and family.

Despite the scale and prevalence of catastrophe-by-firearm, glaring gaps persist in research that addresses the complex of effects, risks and mitigation factors associated with gun violence.

By providing a platform upon which dialogue can develop between academics, policy makers, advocates, law enforcement, nurses and doctors, mental health professionals, and religious communities this Initiative hopes to address impacts of gun violence and trauma.

The Initiative for Studying Gun Violence and Trauma will host three town hall meetings and other events across the country during the 2016-2017 academic year:

Upcoming Events

Los Angeles: Gun Violence and Trauma: A Public Health Response
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May 5, 2017
Feminist Majority Foundation, 5:30 p.m. PT
The Los Angeles Town Hall meeting on gun violence and trauma brings an important conversation to the West Coast. Gun violence impacts not only the lives of those physically harmed by its devastation, but also families, schools, places of worship, first-responders, police, and so many more. Increasingly, gun violence touches more lives than ever before. On an average day in the United States, seven teens and children will die from gun violence. However, 40 children and teens will be shot on any given day and somehow survive. Overall, nearly 100 people per day die in the U.S. from gun violence. In fact, more people die in the U.S. from gun wounds inflicted by toddlers than terrorists on U.S. soil. Female victims of domestic violence are more likely to be murdered if there is a gun in the home. What can be done to stem the tide of gun violence? How should lawmakers respond? How should society address the trauma resulting from gun violence?
More event details >

Past Events

Chicago: Gun Violence and Vulnerable Populations

September 22, 2016
University Club of Chicago
This town hall meeting focuses on how gun violence and trauma uniquely impact vulnerable communities, including racial minorities, children, the homeless, and individuals with mental disabilities. More event details >


November 1, 2016
U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, Room HVC-201 A & B, 12:00 p.m. ET
The Congressional Briefing focused on educating lawmakers and expanding awareness, discourse, and public policy on gun violence, trauma, and policing, particularly as it relates to how gun violence impacts low-income communities throughout the U.S. In just the past 14 years, firearm deaths accounted for over 470,000 fatalities, making death by firearm the second-leading cause of all violence-related deaths in our nation. This Congressional Briefing educated lawmakers and the public about the public health, mental health, and economic impacts of gun violence. Participants offered recommendations for pathways forward. Joining us were: Dr. George Woods, President, International Academy of Law and Mental Health, Judge Glenda Hatchett (ret.) (representing Philando Castille’s family); Camiella Williams, a member of Congresswoman Robin Kelley’s Violence Prevention Taskforce. Ms. Williams is a millennial who has suffered the deaths of 28 loved ones in Chicago due to gun violence; Robert Bennett, Esq., civil rights litigator and expert on police-civilian interaction; Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman, psychologist and expert on child trauma; and Professor Michele Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Chair, Initiative for Studying Gun Violence and Trauma. More event details >

Washington D.C.: Gun Violence and Trauma: Policing & Training

November 1, 2016
National Press Club, 6:00 p.m. ET
This town hall meeting featured a discussion on policing, police violence, and training. It will highlight the privatization of law enforcement agencies, looking particularly at the fiscal structures that underlie, and at times demand, high risk policing practices. More event details >

Press Release: UCI Law Task Force on Gun Violence Sponsored Congressional Briefing, National Town Hall and White House Meeting

UCI News Feature: Taking aim at gun violence

Chicago Town Hall: Gun Violence and Vulnerable Populations