Taking a Data Approach to Solving America’s Gun Violence Problem

BALTIMORE, MD, June 30, 2022 – New audio is available for media use featuring Sheldon Jacobson. He is a founder professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He talks about taking a data approach to solving America’s gun violence problem. This content is made available by INFORMS, the largest association for the decision and data sciences. All sound should be attributed to Sheldon Jacobson. What follows are 4 questions and responses. These responses were provided on June 29, 2022.



Question 1: Based on the data that you see, what are some of the greatest myths surrounding perceptions of mass shootings?

Time Cue: 0:21, Soundbite Duration: :18 

“Many believe that mass shootings are happening every day in the United States.  They simply are not.  Yes, shootings and gun violence occur daily, with all resulting in some injury and perhaps even a death.  The most egregious use of firearms in the United States are suicides, which represent over one-half of all firearm deaths.”  



Question 2: Based on that same data, what are the very real challenges America faces when it comes to mass shootings?

Time Cue: 0:56, Soundbite Duration: :32

”Over 45 thousand people died from firearm injuries in 2021.  This is even more than the number of people who died in automobile accidents (42 thousand).  Our nation has made concerted efforts to enhance automobile safety, yet firearm safety seems to fall through the cracks. The root cause lies with conflicting views on what is required to reduce gun violence.  Every highly visible mass shooting elicits a visceral response, yet rarely leads to substantive changes that can yield meaningful improvements.” 



Question 3: What does the data say about practical solutions for gun violence and mass shootings?

Time Cue: 01:36, Soundbite Duration: :30

“Firearm safety should be a top priority for lawmakers.  This means keeping firearms out of the hands of those who will use them to harm themselves and others.  This also means looking at the types of firearms available and matching them to the needs of those who use them responsibly. Bazookas are legal firearms, classified as destructive devices, and hence, are highly regulated.  They serve no useful purpose for hunting or self-defense, so have not been a problem.  Can the same argument be made about other high performing firearms, like AR-15s?”



Question 4: What needs to happen in order for these solutions to be implemented?

Time Cue: 02:14, Soundbite Duration: :40

“Lawmakers need to focus on a common objective, like reducing gun violence across society.  Everyone can agree with such an objective.  The question is how to get there.  Also focusing on improvements rather than quantum leaps of change is necessary.  The recently passed legislation will likely offer little substantive improvement, but there will be some incremental advances that can eventually lead to more meaningful discussions in the future. We will know that improvements are being made when firearm deaths begin to fall, and mass shooting frequency begins to abate.  There is no destination to be reached, just a destiny to be traversed on the road to reducing gun violence.”

Taking a Data Approach to Solving America’s Gun Violence Problem

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