The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions (CGVS) at the Bloomberg School of Public Health was recently formed as a merger between the Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy (CGVPP) and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (EFSGV). The CGVPP is known for its focus on research, while the EFSGV focuses on public health and advocacy. The CGVS’s leaders include Daniel Webster, Joshua Horwitz and Cassandra Crifasi.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Crifasi, the deputy director of the CGVS and associate professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management, addressed the long-term importance of this merger to prevent gun violence nationally.
“One of the things that I’m most excited about for the new Center is the ability [to take projects] from ideation to translation, to be able to do everything in the life cycle of a research project,” she said.
She also expressed hope that graduate students, in addition to faculty members, will be able to make an impact in gun violence prevention research through the CGVS.
“One of the things that excites me about having a leadership role is really training the next generation and the up-and-coming researchers to be thinking about the impact that the questions they’re asking and the answers they’re generating can have on a range of partners and stakeholders,” she said.
Webster is a professor of American Health in the Department of Health Policy and Management and led the CGVPP for 20 years. In an interview with The News-Letter, he explained he hopes this initiative will advance research and change.
“While I really enjoy being a scientist — learning and producing research that is relevant to a big problem like gun violence — it can be rather discouraging if nothing happens with that research,” he said. “This new partnership and new formation of the Center with colleagues with additional skills and capacity to translate what we do into actual action and policy is very gratifying.”
Webster explained several initiatives that the Center will prioritize to promote evidence-informed policy. Among these initiatives is the implementation of handgun purchaser licensing laws, which aim to reduce gun violence by requiring a license from a law enforcement agency to purchase a handgun, extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), which allow courts to prevent an individual from purchasing or possessing firearms if they are at risk of harming themselves or others and community violence intervention programs, which use a public health approach to address systemic racism and trauma in communities.
He emphasized the importance of equity in the Center’s work.
“If we don’t consider equity concerns, we could have some short-term success but long-term failure,” he said. “A lot of prior policy approaches to problems like gun violence in Baltimore and other cities have been very racially biased and over-reliant upon using police and incarceration as a tool to address gun violence... Systems which have been more harmful to African Americans and Indigenous people.”
Webster said that focusing on upstream factors, which are structural determinants at the broader level, is critical to reduce reliance on the justice system, leading to fewer arrests and incarcerations resulting from gun violence.
Crifasi explained the significance of the CGVS being located in Baltimore, emphasizing the Center’s goal to continue working with the local community to reduce gun violence.
“We really are in one of the communities experiencing some of the highest rates of violence,“ she said. “We have and will continue to partner with these communities to try to figure out ways to address issues with policing, police-community relationships, underground gun markets and gun trafficking, violence intervention and interruption programs.”
Webster elaborated on this impact, highlighting that the Center’s research on reducing gun violence is deeply personal.
“We all do this work because we care. It’s personal to us; many of us know people who have lost their lives to gun violence. We know survivors. We know how much it harms communities and cities like Baltimore,” he said. “I feel like this is a real opportunity for greater impact.”