Dr. Garen Wintemute looks for ways to prevent firearm violence

JEREMY DANG / AGGIE

Emergency room doctor continues research at UC Firearm Violence Prevention Research Center

Dr. Garen Wintemute has joined together with a staff of UC Davis, UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine faculty members to lead the most extensive gun violence research ever conducted. Over the next five years, with a budget of $5 million, researchers at the University of California Firearm Violence Prevention Research Center (UCFC) hope to learn more about how to prevent firearm violence and to study those who are at risk.

“We’re doing fundamental research on the nature, distribution and consequences of firearm violence, and on firearm ownership and commerce,” Wintemute said. “We’re collecting data that will support prevention activities and assess the effectiveness of current policies and programs.”

For the last three decades, Wintemute has researched firearm violence. For the past 20 years, federal funding that was supposed to be funneled to gun violence research has been blocked in Congress. For this reason, Wintemute donated $1.1 million of his own money to continue his research.

“Congressman Jay Dickey, whose work in the 1990s led to the nearly total disappearance of federal support for firearm violence research, wrote a strong letter of support for the creation of UCFC,” Wintemute said. “He realized he’d made a mistake. As for cancer, heart disease and other health problems, we need to understand firearm violence in order to prevent it.”

The UCFC provides a platform for Wintemute to expand his research efforts. As a former emergency room doctor, Wintemute has extensive experience seeing and treating victims of gunshot wounds both in the U.S. and overseas.

“Because most people who die from gunshot wounds do so where they are shot, we clinicians need to help prevent the shootings in order to prevent the deaths,” Wintemute said.

Organizations on campus such as the Davis College Democrats have taken note of Wintemute’s work. Perrin Swanlund, a second-year political science and English double major, is the president of Davis College Democrats. After the most recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, Swanlund said he was looking more closely at the research people like Wintemute are doing to try and stop these events from occurring.

Since the Las Vegas shooting, Wintemute has had an overwhelming number of donations and interview requests. In an interview with the L.A. Times, Wintemute said that there are few commonalities linking mass shootings, except for similarities in weapon choice.

Wintemute also pointed out that mass shooters don’t follow a set profile, although research has yet to be tested on whether mass shooters tend to buy more weapons than regular firearm buyers. Another factor which links mass shootings, he said, is the purchasing of high-capacity magazines. In California, selling high-capacity magazines has been banned and in the last year even the possession of them has been banned.

“Substantially more research needs to be done to determine the best options to put a stop to these tragedies in the United States and the work that UC Davis researchers are doing on firearm violence prevention is incredibly important,” Swanlund said.

The Davis College Republicans said they did not have a statement on the current state of gun violence in America at this time.

Third-year communication and sociology major Bryce Sheehan-Gaston, a Las Vegas native, said the shooting at the Route 91 festival hit him hard.

“The solution to these issues may not be cut and dry,” Sheehan-Gaston said. “But it’s important to attempt to find them, and for the entire community to work together.”

 

Written by: Ally Russell — campus@theaggie.org

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