Effective gun policies in the United States must balance the constitutional right to bear arms and public interest in gun ownership with concerns about public health and safety. However, current efforts to craft legislation related to guns are hampered by a lack of reliable information about the effects of such policies.
To help address this problem, the RAND Corporation launched the Gun Policy in America initiative. The goal of the project was to create resources where policymakers and the general public can access unbiased information that facilitates the development of fair and effective firearm policies.
Building on a long history of providing policymakers with objective, independent analysis of complex topics, RAND developed policy analysis tools and research syntheses, grounded in science, aimed at clarifying the effects of current and proposed firearms measures. The tools and syntheses document the effects of different firearm policies on gun violence, gun rights, and hunting and recreational gun use.
This initiative focused solely on the empirical effects of policies, rather than evaluating the merits of different social values that may sometimes drive policy disagreements.
Informing Decisionmaking on Gun Policy
March 2, 2018
At RAND, we have a 70-year history of taking on the most complex and consequential of policy issues. In some cases, such as with our research on criminal sentencing policy, marijuana legalization, and the structural requirements of a Palestinian state, our work has focused on controversial and socially divisive problems. We have always approached these high-profile and sensitive issues with the same commitment to scientific rigor and objectivity that we apply to the more technocratic policy problems we are often asked to solve.
Much of the time, we are able to do this by responding to the policy-analysis needs of our research clients, which include a wide array of government agencies, foundations, and other nonprofit organizations committed to improving civil society. In rare cases, however, the only way we can tackle an important but tough or controversial public policy challenge is through gifts from RAND supporters. Philanthropic contributions give us the ability to take the long view, tackle tough and often-controversial topics, and share our findings in innovative and compelling ways. RAND's Gun Policy in America initiative is one such research project.
My decision to initiate a research project to study gun policy in the United States came after many years of watching what seemed like an increasingly polarized and acrimonious “debate” that rested on a sparse foundation of analytical findings. I was often asked what RAND was doing to make the public discussion and decisionmaking around fair and effective gun laws more informed. I didn't have a good answer. When I looked at our client-commissioned research portfolio, I saw only episodic enquiries on gun policy—this despite RAND having a long history and deep expertise in matters of public safety, public health, civil liberties, and national security.
But I knew that, at RAND, we have the depth of intellect and research talent to make a substantial contribution to help improve policymaking related to guns. Beyond that, I knew we could bring a unique perspective on the issues as a fiercely nonpartisan organization devoted to objectivity and analytic rigor. So, I set the RAND Gun Policy in America initiative under way, investing in a comprehensive effort that draws from the best of RAND's interdisciplinary research talent. The result, contained in this site and in a body of formal research reports and new analytical tools, should be valuable to policymakers and the public regardless of their views on gun policy and will, we hope, spur important further research (both within and outside of RAND) on an issue that is as important as it is contentious.
Michael D. Rich
President and CEO, RAND Corporation (2011–2022)