U-M to establish institute for firearm injury prevention

A public health crisis

The University of Michigan will launch a new Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention to generate knowledge and advance innovative solutions that reduce firearm injury, a public health crisis that leads to more than 100 deaths per day across the United States.

“Firearm violence led to nearly 40,000 deaths nationwide last year, and the stark reality that we all must come to grips with is that this public health crisis is unfortunately growing more intense every year,” says Rebecca Cunningham, U-M vice president for research and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine.

“We have an incredible opportunity here with this new institute to really address the problem head-on through collaborative research and scholarship. By partnering with rural and urban community leaders and other key stakeholders, we can leverage our expertise and resources so that together we achieve our common goals of decreasing firearm injury and death, all while respecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”

A $10 million university commitment over the next five years will support the institute, which launched as a presidential initiative in 2019 to formulate and answer critical questions around safety and violence.

The University is uniquely positioned to address this crisis because its researchers have secured more federal funding to study firearm injury prevention than any other academic institution nationwide, Cunningham says.

Progress despite polarization

More Michigan residents have died as a result of firearms than from opioids over the past decade, but political polarization around this issue has resulted in limited science, minimal research funding, and a dearth of faculty scholars focused on this field of study.

To address this challenge, the institute will explore firearm injuries across the lifespan, including suicide, community and school-based violence, domestic violence, peer violence and police violence, as well as disparities in susceptibility to firearm injuries by race, gender, geographic location, and socioeconomic status.

A research and scholarship core will aim to foster scholarly collaboration across disciplines, seed innovative projects focused on research, scholarship, and creative practice, and prepare teams for external funding opportunities to support future firearm injury prevention research.

The institute will educate and train a diverse next generation of faculty and students with opportunities that include new firearm-related courses revolving around epidemiology, health disparities and health equity, interventions, and policy analysis.

Funding also will initially support a national search for at least three new faculty hires, five postdoctoral fellows, and multiple graduate student research assistants — all of whom will explore firearm research and scholarship through distinct disciplines, from social sciences and the arts to engineering and public health.

“The Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention will help us add to the science and data we are marshaling as a public university to save lives and prevent harm,” says U-M President Mark Schlissel. “I applaud the many students and faculty researchers who are devoting their intellectual talents to solving this horrific public health crisis.”

Leading scholars take charge

Professors Marc Zimmerman and Patrick Carter, who have studied firearm violence for more than a decade, will lead the institute as its inaugural co-directors. Together, Zimmerman and Carter have authored nearly 350 scholarly publications on violence and firearm injury prevention. They also are on the leadership team directing the Firearm Safety among Children and Teens consortium, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Zimmerman, the Marshall H. Becker Collegiate Professor of Public Health and a professor of psychology, directs the Prevention Research Center and the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center — both housed at the School of Public Health and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New research led by Zimmerman shows the engagement of local residents in community greening efforts can lead to a substantial reduction in firearm violence.

Carter, an associate professor of emergency medicine and associate professor of health behavior and health education, directs the university’s CDC-funded Injury Prevention Center. Older adult firearm suicides account for more than 30 percent of all firearm fatalities each year, and so new research led by Carter explores whether older adult firearm owners discuss safe storage with their physician. His findings reveal that less than 5 percent of older adult firearm owners had been asked by their physician during the prior year about firearm storage.

The institute, which reports to the Office of the Vice President for Research, will appoint deans and faculty to its executive and advisory committees so they can provide guidance on strategic priorities and foster collaboration across disciplines. An external stakeholder committee also will ensure a diversity of nonpartisan perspectives beyond academia, and its members may include firearm owners, religious and school leaders, law enforcement, and rural and urban community groups.


  1. Beverly Holt - 1968

    Badly needed research to promote effective prevention of gun deaths. We seem to be stuck with millions of guns so please research how we can coexist with them safely.
    How to dispose of a gun. What happens if a gun is turned into the police State by State. Police military excess gun distribution/possession/sales. Guns where the original owner/user is dead or no longer using the gun, how is it stored. Are there insurance/liability solutions. Methods to share facts with the public to counter political noise. Effective locks/technology to prevent accidental deaths.


  2. David Elazar - 1964

    New Technology Records Police Shooting


  3. Gordon Allardyce - 1960BSE. 1970MBA

    I do not own a firearm nor am I a member of the NRA. Nevertheless, it is clear to me that most studies of firearm violence ultimately conclude that firearm ownership should be reduced, usually drastically or completely, and that only the state should allow its police or army to bear arms. This is a gross simplification of a very complex matter, so I can only hope that the UM study takes all individual rights and needs and sporting interests into full consideration fairly and without bias. As to the 30 percent of older adult suicides, that is their personal choice. As to the many crimes committed using firearms, prosecute and incarcerate to the full extent of the current law instead of letting criminals off lightly as is too often done.


  4. Phil Edmunds - 1964 (Rackham)

    Why in the world is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention funding firearm-related “research” at U of M? Gun violence is not a disease.


    • M Sanborn - 2002

      It’s a public health crisis. and mental illness, which is often involved in firearms deaths, is a disease


  5. KATHLEEN GRASSER - BBA 1972, MBA 1975

    Pathetic! You are going to study everything from “suicide”…..to “police violence” but not criminal violence, drug-based violence, robbery-based violence, neighborhood violence, or riot-based violence? Just another way for the U of M to grab more taxpayer funds to support its stupid, lefty agenda. When criminals shoot each other on the south side of Chicago are your researchers going to rush the emergency room to see if (before death) someone can blame it on race or poverty or the gun registry or deer hunting? “Firearm Injury Prevention” my foot! Has the U of M run out of people who can think?


    • M Sanborn - 2002

      where in the article did the researchers say they were not going to investigate crime?

      “stupid, lefty agenda” – wow, someone just got triggered (pun intended!)

      U of Michigan has not run out of people who can think but apparently the MBA class of ’75 has


    • M Sanborn - 2002

      “When criminals shoot each other on the south side of Chicago”

      Wow, your bias is soooo obvious. Surprised you didn’t say the n-word.


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