The State of Firearms Data in 2019

NORC Expert Panel on Firearms Data Infrastructure
January, 2020

Any reasoned debate on firearms in the United States, particularly one that seeks to protect 2nd Amendment rights while taking seriously the role of firearms in America's disproportionate violence, must begin with a shared set of facts. At present, the firearms data infrastructure in the United States is too limited to provide that foundation. In partnership with Arnold Ventures, NORC at the University of Chicago is hosting a series of convenings with an expert panel of 14 members with diverse professional experiences and subject matter expertise in data, research, and policy. The goal of this panel is to produce practical guidance for a rigorous, objective, and sustainable firearms data architecture for use by local, state, and federal policymakers and their constituents.

The first expert panel convening was held in October 2019, and this report is the first product of these deliberations. This paper serves two purposes. First, it presents a review of current firearms data systems, datasets, and survey data. Second, it describes the ongoing deliberations of the expert panel on the review of data and on the development of a roadmap through the two remaining convenings, to culminate in a blueprint for a U.S. firearm data infrastructure.

The main finding of this report is that, while there are numerous data sources describing particular elements of the relationship between firearms and accidental harm, suicides, and criminal violence, the current firearms data environment is disordered and highly segmented.