Among the 23 executive actions President Obama announced on Wednesday to try to curb gun violence, there was one particularly wonky new policy that could have major implications for urban gun violence – or, more specifically, for what we know about it. Obama has directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the causes and prevention of gun violence, a seemingly simple proposal that has long been opposed by the National Rifle Association.
This one move could go a long way toward changing how we think about gun violence in American communities, recasting it as a problem of public health. But it would also for the first time enable researchers to answer some fundamental – but until now unknown – questions about who has guns, how they get them and the ways in which they're misused. These unknowns are particularly relevant for cities given, as Richard Florida has written, that almost 60 percent of firearm homicides in the U.S. occur in the country’s 50 largest metros.