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MPA Supports the Elimination of Barriers to the CDC's Funding of Research on Gun Violence

Thursday, September 1, 2016  
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After the Orlando shootings, MPA leadership reviewed the actions of other associations and groups in consideration of the best ways to make an impact on the issue of gun violence within the scope of MPA's mission. Then MPA President-Elect and current MPA President Dawn Cisewski identified this as an important issue for the MPA Board of Directors to respond to. As a result, the MPA Advocacy Committee explored the issue of gun violence at their meeting on June 20th, in considering what recommendations it might make to the Board. In particular, the Committee was concerned about the law banning the CDC from funding research on gun violence.

One of the founding principles of our profession is the belief that empirical research is a vital component in creating effective prevention and intervention efforts. A motion was approved by the Advocacy Committee and then the Board of Directors to write a letter outlining our concerns from a scientific perspective, which we would send to our congressional delegation and share with MPA members. Below is the letter that MPA sent this week to our two senators and nine representatives in Congress.


August 30, 2016

 RE: Research on Gun Violence

The Massachusetts Psychological Association represents 1,600 psychologists in Massachusetts in carrying out our mission to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare. In recognition of the nation's gun violence epidemic, including the alarming increase in mass gun violence and its psychological effects, and, in consideration of the high rate of completed suicides via guns, we strongly support ongoing efforts to eliminate barriers on the CDC's ability to fund research on gun violence and gun safety. This position is consistent with a recent task force on gun violence commissioned by the American Psychological Association in 2014 (you can access the full report at

Allowing the CDC to do research on gun violence will provide some of the vital data necessary to inform prevention efforts, so that they are based on scientific evidence and not just rhetoric. For example, there is some scientific evidence to support background checks as a means of reducing the rate of violent gun crimes by persons whose mental health records disqualify them from legally obtaining a firearm. Although that study was conducted in only one state (Connecticut), it lends additional support to the argument that more research is necessary to investigate whether such legislation would be effective on a larger scale.

Similarly, more than half of suicides are accomplished using a firearm, and research shows that having a gun in the home makes suicide three times more likely to be attempted. In addition, the rates of firearm suicides have increased more than 13% between 2007 and 2013. This data is especially daunting given that 85% to 91% of firearm suicide attempts are fatal. But without the type of data that the CDC is able to provide for other safety risks, we are unable to determine which legislative and/or community level interventions might be most effective in increasing gun safety and decreasing firearm-related suicides.

At the community level, there is also insufficient research to aid in designing comprehensive and effective approach to preventing gun violence. The research that has been done suggests that the most effective approaches are those that combine changes to both the legal system and community interventions. Again, those who design such a multifaceted approach need sufficient scientific research to inform their decision-making and increase the likelihood that such efforts will be successful. Preventing the CDC from assisting in closing that research gap undermines our ability to create effective programs to reduce gun violence.

We appreciate your understanding that this is an important issue that needs to be addressed and encourage you to continue your efforts to seek legislative solutions. We will gladly assist you however we can in this important work.


Dawn Cisewski, Psy.D.


Brian Doherty

Executive Director

Jennifer Warkentin, Ph.D.

Director of Professional Affairs

Linda Daniels, Psy.D.

Federal Advocacy Coordinator


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