UC Davis professor invests $1.3 million of own earnings into research of mass shootings, gun violence


Research looks to find solution to national epidemic of firearm violence.

In 2015, UC Davis School of Medicine professor Garen Wintemute donated approximately $1.3 million of his own money toward gun violence research. Wintemute, who also works as the director of the violence prevention research program at UC Davis, noted that his research looks not only at mass shootings, but firearm violence in general.

Firearm violence through Wintemute’s research has shown facts and statistics that debunk certain theories about those who initiate in homicidal acts. According to Wintemute’s research, the male sex, youth, alcohol abuse and a history of prior violence are all risk factors for violence in individuals, especially for the mentally ill.

“Alcohol abuse is a huge risk factor for violence, including specifically firearm violence,” Wintemute said. “Mental illness accounts for less than 5 percent of interpersonal violence, but it accounts for 45 to 75 percent of suicides. The best way to stop mass shootings is to prevent firearm violence generally. Public mass shootings account for well under one percent of firearm deaths.”

Sho Mendoza, a third-year English major, commented on how he felt this donation would be beneficial due to the needed research within the field.

“That’s amazing, and something I could never do, but in terms of mass shootings, this is a step toward progress,” Mendoza said. “Since the Second Amendment is important to a lot of people, and Congress not wanting to amend it for that exact reason, researching the cause behind these shootings is the best step.”

While Wintemute said that he knows that his research is valuable in preventing future firearm violence in America, he also pointed out that Congress should engage with the firearm regulations as the population sees necessary.

“I think we’re well beyond that breaking point, the people who are ready for change think that Congress will act, but the change that people need to make is to change Congress,” Wintemute said.

While guns and violence go hand-in-hand, Wintemute made the point of saying that America is not an alarmingly violent country statistically.

“We are not an inherently violent society; our rates of assaultive violence among the industrialized nations are relatively low,” Wintemute said. “Where we stand out is we have a homicide rate that’s almost off the charts and the reason is we have access to a technology, the firearm, that changes the outcome of violence.”

Matthew Carmichael, the UC Davis police chief, commented on how the university has ensured that the student body remains safe amidst an alarming number of mass shootings throughout America, some of which have occurred on the campuses of fellow universities, including UC Merced and UC Santa Barbara.

“At the UC’s, we’re far ahead of the game; one of the common failures is the inability to connect the dots. We saw this at Virginia Tech,” Carmichael said. “At the UC’s and UC Davis, police talk to mental health and mental health talks to [the] student council. What this does is allow all the players at the table to talk.”

According to Carmichael, shootings such as the event at Virginia Tech presented red flags before the incident occurred; studying these tragedies helps the UC Davis police department to prevent future shootings.

“We watch events like these that happen and study them after they occur,” Carmichael said. “We’ve made a lot of changes over the past seven years [and] a substantial amount of change over the past four years.”

It was mentioned that the university’s police force works to incorporate the proper amount of on-duty staff, technology and accommodations to encompass a holistic approach to campus security. New call boxes with modern technology and a full fleet of safe rides vehicles are both in the plans for the university in the near future.

“We have 130 student security guards, which is probably one the largest student-run security programs in the United States,” Carmichael said. “On the law enforcement side, I think that we’re in a good place, we have the right amount of police staff, we have the appropriate types of firearms and we have a robust security program.”

Written by: Nick Griffen – campus@theaggie.org