New approaches to data collection, use could drive reductions in gun violence

Aug 28, 2023 | Blog

When the Bloomberg Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) recently hosted colleagues from the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Gun Violence Solutions (CGVS), a crucial fact emerged from the discussion: to effectively curb alarming rates of gun violence, policy makers and anti-violence advocates need to make a fundamental shift in the data they collect and how they use it.

“We have a lot of data,” Associate Vice Provost for Public Sector Innovation at Johns Hopkins University and GovEx founder Beth Blauer said. “But it’s the way that we process that data that’s actually going to help lead us to different kinds of solutions so we get out of the cycle of just investing in the same programs that return the same bad result over and over again.”   

Leaders for CGVS agreed, noting that gun violence is an epidemic in cities like Baltimore, where both centers are based. But approaches predicated on decades-old data and practices like engaging trusted community members to spread anti-violence messages and disrupt potential conflict may not suffice in an increasingly digital and isolated culture. 

CGVS’ Distinguished Research Scholar, Daniel Webster, suspects a perfect storm of untraceable ghost guns, lenient enforcement of firearms laws, and a social media culture that glorifies gun violence could be causes of upticks in violence and unresponsive to antiquated mitigation methods. 

The Center employs a group of researchers and violence prevention advocates who take a public health approach to studying and identifying solutions to reduce gun violence. Webster and CGVS Co-Directors Josh Horwitz and Cass Crifasi suggested that new metrics could better evaluate policies aimed at reducing gun violence and making communities safer. 

“Let’s look at data in a forward looking way,” said Webster, who studies violence reduction policies and programs including Baltimore’s Safe Streets initiative. “How do we innovate and evolve? [Let’s get] to a new place where our public safety approaches better reflect what is going on right now and where things are going in the future.” 

GovEx welcomes opportunities to learn from our colleagues throughout the Johns Hopkins system. We are uniquely positioned to support researchers and advocates like the Center for Gun Violence Solutions through our robust data gathering and analytic operation.