Our Research, In Brief

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Our research partners within the Gun Violence Collaborative have investigated a range of topics pertinent to gun violence prevention.  We highlight a few examples, below.


Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH
Dean and Robert A Knox Professor, BU School of Public Health

Dr. Galea has long been interested in the consequences of traumatic events, including firearms.  He has published extensively about the epidemic of homicide in New York City in the 1990s, focusing on the socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequalities that characterized this epidemic. His work on firearm violence has been centrally concerned with non-fatal injury due to gun violence, including homicides and suicides.   He has a particular interest in the behavioral health consequences of firearm violence, including mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Three State Laws Identified That Can Reduce Gun Deaths

A nationwide study led by Boston University researchers that analyze the impact of gun-control laws in the US has found that just 9 of 25 state laws are effective in reducing firearm deaths.  The research, published in The Lancet, suggests that three laws implemented in some states could reduce gun deaths by more than 80 percent if they were implemented nationwide. Laws requiring firearm identification through ballistic imprinting or microstamping were found to reduce the projected mortality risk by 84 percent; ammunition background checks by 82 percent; and universal background checks for all gun purchases by 61 percent.

Federal implementation of all three laws would be projected to reduce the national firearm death rate—10.1 per 100,000 people in 2010—to 0.16 per 100,000, the study says.

“Very few of the existing state-specific firearms laws are associated with reduced mortality, and this evidence underscores the importance of focusing on relevant and effective firearms legislation,” said senior study author and School of Public Health Dean Sandro Galea. “Implementing universal background checks for the purchase of firearms or ammunition, and firearm identification nationally could substantially reduce mortality in the US.”

Lead author Bindu Kalesan, director of the Evans Center for Translational Epidemiology and Comparative Effectiveness Research at the School of Medicine, said the study is the first to assess a broad array of gun laws and other relevant state-level data.

“The findings suggest that very few of the existing state gun-control laws actually reduce gun deaths, highlighting the importance of focusing on relevant and effective gun legislation,” she said. “Background checks for all people buying guns and ammunition, including private sales, are the most effective laws we have to reduce the number of gun deaths in the US.”


Emily Rothman, ScD
Associate Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences

Dr. Rothman is an Associate Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health with secondary appointments at the Boston University School of Medicine in Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine. She is also a visiting scientist at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.  Dr. Rothman’s areas of research expertise are intimate partner and sexual violence, dating abuse, youth violence, and human trafficking.  She conducts research on firearms in the context of these topics, including gun possession among batterer intervention program enrollees, batterers’ use of firearms to threaten intimate partners, and non-strange femicide.  She has also lead community-based participatory research to reduce youth violence. She is presently funded by a federal grant in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission to evaluate a community-based homicide reduction initiative in a neighborhood of Boston, a co-investigator on a federally-funded research study on state-level firearm policies and race-specific homicide rates, and is engaged in an innovative investigation into firearms and dating abuse victimization.

Firearm Ownership Closely Tied to Suicide Rates

States with higher estimated levels of gun ownership had higher incidents of gun-related suicides, with firearm ownership alone explaining 71 percent of the variation in state-level gun suicide rates for males and 49 percent for females, a new study by School of Public Health researchers shows.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, covers 33 years, from 1981 to 2013, and is the most comprehensive analysis of the association between gun ownership and gender-specific suicides rates among the 50 US states.

“Our study adds to the consistent finding that among both males and females, increased prevalence of firearms is clearly associated with an increase in the firearm-specific suicide rate,” said Michael Siegel, lead author and professor of community health sciences. “The magnitude of this relationship is substantial and warrants attention from policy-makers.”

Co-author Emily Rothman, associate professor of community health sciences, added, “Given that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and firearm-related deaths and injuries are extraordinarily costly, reducing firearm-related self-injury and suicide is a public health imperative.”


Michael B. Siegel, MD
Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences

Dr. Siegel is a professor at the BU School of Public Health. Prior to coming to Boston, he completed his residency in Preventive Medicine at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and trained in epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Dr. Siegel has developed a novel firearms research agenda. His major contributions include: (1) being the first to examine the relationship between gun ownership and stranger vs. non-stranger firearm and total homicide rates; (2) developing a new and improved proxy measure for state household gun ownership; and (3) developing a comprehensive state-level database of gun ownership, firearm violence rates, and more than 20 state-level control variables covering a three-decade period from 1981 through 2015. This is the most extensive and comprehensive database of its kind. He is also developing a database of state firearm laws covering all 50 states for the period 1991-2016.


Ziming Xuan, ScD, SM, MA
Associate Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences

Ziming Xuan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. He is also a faculty member of the Injury Prevention Center at Boston Medical Center. He is a social epidemiologist who is interested in understanding the influence of social-contextual determinants, especially policy determinants on health, especially among youth. He has been the Principal Investigator of an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study alcohol policies and leading causes of alcohol-related mortality in the United States. He has been involved in studies of firearm-related injuries in the US and the role of firearm laws in preventing gun violence.

Restrictive Gun Control Policies Lower Youth Gun Carrying

A more restrictive gun law environment was associated with a reduced likelihood of youths carrying guns, according to a new study led by a School of Public Health researcher.

In a study published online by JAMA Pediatrics, Ziming Xuan, first author and assistant professor of community health sciences at SPH, and co-author David Hemenway of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health used gun law scores from the Brady Center for each state, with greater values representing a more restrictive gun control environment. They report that a 10-point increase in a gun law score was associated with 9 percent lower odds of youth gun carrying.

Higher adult gun ownership levels also were associated with a higher prevalence of youth carrying guns.

“Gun violence poses a substantial public health threat to adolescents in the United States. Existing evidence points to the need for policies to reduce gun carrying among youth,” they wrote. “We find that the strength of gun policies, including both adult-focused and youth-focused policies, is inversely associated with youth gun carrying.”


Boston University School of Medicine Partners

Bindu Kalesan, MPH, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Director, Center for Clinical Translational Epidemiology and Comparative Effectiveness Research
Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology
Department of Medicine
Boston University School of Medicine

Bindu Kalesan is a clinical epidemiologist and a biostatistician. Dr. Kalesan is interested in clinical and health outcomes research. Her work primarily explores cardiovascular and other long-term consequences in patients undergoing treatment for cardiac diseases, cancer, infectious and trauma. She also focuses on public health consequences of firearm violence in the US and the short- and long-term effects of firearm injury survivorship. Currently, she is a faculty and the Director of TEC, Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and works on clinical trials, longitudinal studies and meta-analysis in cardiovascular, diabetes, oncology, infectious diseases and injury/safety research areas.

Recent SPH Gun Research