South Alabama receives federal grant to work with gun owners on firearm safety

Mobile County

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The University of South Alabama just received a $1.8 million federal grant from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research strategies to reduce gun-related suicides and homicides. We saw gun and ammo sales spike at the beginning of the pandemic and again the past couple of weeks because of the latest events in Washington, D.C. Some veteran gun owners are purchasing more, but many are buying guns for the first time. This makes this research timely and impactful. 

Dr. Phillip Smith, a professor at the University of South Alabama, says, “The purpose of this project is to actually open up dialogue, to bridge worlds, to actually involve people that value gun ownership and use, in having dialogues around how we best prevent suicide and violence in a manner that respects second amendment rights.”

In the first two years of the project, researchers will develop two advisory boards. One will consist of gun owners, while the other will be people who live in areas where gun violence is more prevalent.  

Dr. Krista Mehari, an Assistant Professor at the University of South Alabama, adds, “So those advisory boards will be meeting with us monthly at the beginning of the project to help us understand what questions should we be asking, how should we be asking the questions, and who should we be asking them of.”

The researchers will then work with the advisory boards to recruit 200 people in south Alabama to participate in interviews to come up with creative strategies to reduce gun violence. Based on the results, the researchers hope to survey the public nationally. 

Dr. Smith emphasizes, “Hopefully we can use that to better respect and appreciate the position of gun owners so we can go back and actually do things that work for everybody… because I  value both things… suicide and violence prevention and my right to own and bear guns” 

In a time where gun sales are on the rise, hopefully, the results of this project will produce innovative ways to practice firearm safety. 

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