BOSTON (AP) — Leading public health researchers and gun safety advocates concede that Republican Donald Trump's election as president changed the national conversation on firearms, but they're urging gun owners and manufacturers to be included in the effort to reduce deaths and injuries from firearms.
The researchers, from dozens of universities, met at a conference on gun violence just days after the November election. They had fully anticipated discussing a very different outcome and opportunities for policy changes during a presidency of Democrat Hillary Clinton, said Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health and organizer of the Nov. 14 event.
Instead, they confronted political realities that "portend challenges to advancing gun policy at the federal level in the next four years if not longer," according to an editorial by Galea and his academic colleagues published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.
Trump embraced support from gun rights groups during his campaign and falsely suggested Clinton wanted to abolish the Second Amendment, about the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
Firearms enthusiasts drawn to Trump's campaign and his full-throated support of the Second Amendment are expecting a sweeping expansion of gun rights under his administration and a Congress firmly in Republican hands. The National Rifle Association, which spent more than $30 million supporting Trump and opposing Clinton, called for an end to gun-free zones around the country, including at schools, and Trump pledged during his campaign to eliminate gun-free zones.
Attendees at the conference called for a bolstering of academic research into issues surrounding gun violence.
"When you look at national polls ... the majority of Americans are very much in favor of specific concrete proposals to promote gun safety," Galea said. "They object to gun control in the vein of taking things away from law-abiding citizens."
With an estimated 300 million guns in circulation in the United States, authors of the editorial called for a "business plan" that stresses the enormous medical and social costs of firearms injuries, estimated at $230 billion annually, in contrast with a more polarizing focus on gun ownership.
"There is no reason why gun owners cannot be part of that conversation," Galea said.
The editorial points to a "critical dearth" of scholarly research on the scope and causes of firearms violence, blamed in part on language Congress added to the federal budget two decades ago that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies interpreted as a prohibition on federally funded gun research.
"It's resulted in a generation of missed opportunities," Galea said.
The authors called for a national meeting of private foundations to encourage funding of "the next generation of firearm researchers and scholars."