Faculty, learners and staff involved in co-organizing and running three-day event, and giving numerous presentations and posters

By Kara Gavin

There’s never been anything like it before. And its success has ensured there will be more to come. 

From November 30 to December 2, nearly 600 researchers and other professionals gathered to share new knowledge and connect with one another on the urgent issue of understanding and reducing firearm injuries and deaths across the United States. It was the largest such research conference ever. 

Faculty and staff of the University of Michigan Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention played key roles in making the 2022 National Research Conference on Firearm Injury Prevention happen. Meanwhile, peer reviewers chose a wide range of U-M research teams to present their results in talks and posters. 

The conference, held in Washington, D.C., attracted researchers, community organizers, funding organization representatives and others from across the nation. IFIP was a co-organizer, along with Columbia University and the Rand Corp.

Here’s a snapshot of the U-M research presented at the conference: 

Oral presentations: 

Predicting beliefs about firearms in the home and suicide risk across ecological levels

IFIP faculty member Dan Lee, Ph.D., presented data from a study conducted with the Missouri Foundation for Health, that used a survey of nearly 400 adult firearm owners. The findings suggest that firearm suicide prevention efforts need to recognize the role that fear of community violence, and defense-based firearm ownership, might play in a firearm owner’s actions to reduce the risk of firearm suicide by a member of the household. Based on the findings, Lee recommends that in future, studies of firearm suicide risk attitudes should be longitudinal and more able to identify specific predictors of safe storage or removal to reduce suicide risk.  

Firearm violence among young adults presenting to the emergency department: initial validation and improvement of the SaFETy score

IFIP member and Emergency Medicine researcher Jason E. Goldstick, Ph.D., presented partial data from an effort in emergency departments in Flint, Michigan, Seattle and Philadelphia to evaluate a firearm violence predictive tool called the SaFETy score. Of the 815 youth screened with the tool to date, 6% had been involved in firearm violence in the past month, as an aggressor or victim. But 35% of those who scored high on the SaFETy score scale had been involved in such incidents, compared with less than 1% of those who scored low. The project aims to predict which youth might become involved in firearm violence in the future; the interim data shows the tool’s potential but also points to ways to fine-tune it.

Mental Health Consequences Following Firearm and Motor Vehicle Related Injuries: Impacting our Treatment Strategies

Michigan Medicine pediatric trauma director and IFIP member Peter F. Ehrlich M.D., M.Sc., presented data that has also recently been published in a peer-reviewed journal, comparing youth injured in firearm incidents with those injured in motor vehicle crashes. Read more about the findings, which show firearm injury survivors have a higher risk of being diagnosed with certain mental health conditions. 

More is not always better: Examining the cumulative effects of school safety policies on perceptions of school safety for youth of color

A team represented by Justin Heinze, Ph.D., an IFIP member based in the School of Public Health, shared data from the FACTS national survey of parents and teens. They found that the more safety measures have been put in place in schools – such as metal detectors, armed security and active shooter drills – the less safe some teens feel. Specifically, Black and Hispanic teens felt less safe the more their schools had implemented such measures. 

Store Safely: A culturally tailored universal prevention strategy for rural families

In a presentation that won one of the conference’s major awards, Cynthia Ewell Foster, Ph.D. of the Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry presented preliminary data from a project she has led in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Called Store Safely, it uses an online prevention strategy tailored for rural firearm owners to try to increase storage of firearms unloaded, locked and separate from ammunition. Read more about the findings here

Racism experience and firearm injury risk among Asian Americans

With discrimination and hate incidents focused on Asian Americans on the rise during the pandemic, Hsing-Fang Hsieh M.P.H., Ph.D. of the School of Public Health and colleagues surveyed Asian Americans about firearm ownership and carriage, mental health and alcohol use. They used the data to create a three-level firearm injury risk profile, and found that those in the high-risk group and moderate risk group were much more likely than those in the low-risk group to have experienced racial discrimination.  

Do Extreme Risk Protection Orders have a population-level association with firearm suicide?

In her presentation as part of a symposium on the evidence about extreme risk protection orders and gun relinquishment policies, April Zeoli, Ph.D., of the School of Public Health gave an overview of a study of data from five states where ERPO laws (also sometimes called “red flag” laws) have been in effect. Her findings on association with firearm suicide rates are being prepared for publication; her team’s previous findings on association with mass shootings are described here. 

Flash science sessions:
(brief talks associated with selected research posters)

Implementing Community-Based Youth Firearm Prevention: The True Reasons I Grabbed a Gun Evolved from Risks project (TRIGGER)

Ebunoluwa Odueso BS, presented on a project that is part of the CDC-funded, U-M-based Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center and includes a youth employment program that engages youth in building social-emotional skills, learning about root causes of gun violence, and planning gun violence prevention projects.

Care Management Needs Among Assault-Injured Youth Enrolled in a Hospital-Based Violence Intervention

Lynn S. Massey, MSW, of FACTS and the U-M Injury Prevention Center presented data showing that 86% of assault-injured youth in a hospital-based violence intervention program identified needs that could be addressed through wrap-around care management services.

Examining sleep problems as a mediator between adolescent firearm violence and depression in adulthood

Esther Lee, MPH, presented data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health showing that teens who had been exposed to firearm violence were more likely to show signs of insomnia and depression, even after taking into account differences in age, race/ethnicity, household income and more. 

The Effects of Firearm Concealed Carry Licensing Policies: Who do they affect and how?

Susan Parke, MPP, MS, of the School of Public Health combined data from multiple sources to show that loosening concealed-carry restrictions led to effects that varied by race and community density, and were associated with an increase in firearm theft

Rates and factors associated with firearm carrying among young adults presenting to four urban emergency departments

Philip Stallworth, J.D. shared data from the Screening to Predict Young Adults at Risk for Firearm Violence (SPARK) project; 12% of young adults reported carrying a firearm outside the home, and among them 44% have carried while drunk, high or being involved in a crime, and 26% have shot a firearm to scare or threaten someone. 

The Association Between Community Violence Exposure and Parental Firearm Ownership

Karissa R. Pelletier, Ph.D., showcased data from the FACTS survey showing that parents who had experienced violence in their community were slightly more likely to own firearms, even more so than parents whose children had experienced such violence.

Research posters:

Correlates of student expulsion for firearm possession in Michigan public high schools

Rebeccah Sokol, Ph.D., used Center for Educational Performance and Information for public high schools in Michigan to show that 40 of 640 schools expelled at least one student for firearm possession in the 2018-2019 school year, and that these schools were more likely to have larger numbers of students and higher rates of socioeconomically disadvantaged students.  

Innovative Initiative as a Model for Universities to Increase Interest in and Activity Around Preventing Firearm Injuries Research

Justin E. Heinze, Ph.D. described the framework for the new Public Health IDEAS (Interdisciplinary Discovery, Engagement + Actions for Society) for Preventing Firearm Injuries initiative, also called IDEAS-PFI, which is engaging SPH faculty, students and fellows in firearm research including providing pilot funding and grant support. 

The effects of exposure to firearm violence on post-traumatic stress symptoms among adolescents: A Scoping Review

Esther Lee, MPH, synthesized and evaluated the evidence on direct and indirect exposures to community gun violence, and showed a robust association with post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Baseline Characteristics of Adolescent Youth Seeking Emergency Department Treatment for an Assault Injury

Laura Seewald, M.D. presented data from 50 assault-injured youth taking part in an ongoing multi-site trial showing that 28% of the assaults involved firearm use or threats, and high percentages of substance use, possible mental health conditions and firearm behaviors.