Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, is the driving force behind the online course Reducing Gun Violence in America: Evidence for Change. This new course launches in May.
“The course will start by providing students with baseline knowledge about the scope and nature of gun violence in America. They’ll talk not just about school shootings, which catalyzed the March for Our Lives movement, but also other kinds of mass shootings, suicides, domestic gun violence and urban gun violence.” – The Washington Post
In 1993, Webster was one of the first to develop and offer a course on violence prevention at a School of Public Health. At the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, he’s developed new public health concepts by integrating theory and data on violence prevention.
This 6-week course is designed for people of all ages who want to use research and data to understand issues pertaining to gun policy debates.
1. Why do you think it’s important to learn about gun violence prevention?
Gun violence is one of our nation’s most important public health and social problems. I strongly encourage anyone of any age or background who is deeply interested in reducing gun violence to use this course as a springboard for deeper study of gun violence and its prevention. To identify and advance the most effective and just policies to reduce gun violence requires an understanding of existing research, and a basis for considering new innovative approaches. Through this course, learners are introduced to many outstanding academic researchers working in the field. I hope the course spurs some learners to enroll in academic programs where they can benefit from additional training and mentorship from our faculty.
2. What do you hope that learners take away with them after completing the course?
I hope that the learners come away understanding the real challenges we face in reducing gun violence in America while recognizing that there are policies and programs that have been shown to work. I want learners to understand that we have examples of communities and states that are seeing fewer firearm deaths as a result of policies they have adopted.
I also hope that learners will acquire a deeper appreciation for the importance of risk-based firearm policy that seeks to reduce exposure to firearms in risky contexts that are relevant to the prevention of all forms of firearm violence. This is a critical part of the conversation around how to reduce gun violence in the United States.
Lastly, I hope learners come away feeling empowered by the knowledge they have acquired on such an important topic.
3. Gun violence is such a political issue in the U.S. Will the course touch on the politics around the so-called gun rights and gun safety movements?
This course is grounded in an accurate presentation of the law and research evidence that is most relevant to reducing gun violence in the United States. We want to shine a light on policies that work, are Constitutional, and have broad public support. The course does present national public opinion survey data on a broad range of gun policies that is, of course, relevant to the political debate about how best to reduce gun violence in the U.S.
4. Is there one specific topic in the course which excites you?
I’m truly excited about many topics we cover in this course. But I think the evidence that we share that demonstrates that many lives have been saved by handgun purchaser licensing laws is particularly exciting because of its broad impacts across populations. It’s a policy where we have very strong data showing that this policy is associated with significant reductions in the diversion of guns for criminal use, homicides and suicides. There is also some evidence that handgun purchaser licensing reduces the number of law enforcement officers who are shot in the line of duty.6