Session: Gun Violence As a Grand Challenge: A Call to Action (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

173 Gun Violence As a Grand Challenge: A Call to Action

Thursday, January 21, 2021: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM
Cluster: Health
Patricia Logan-Greene, PhD, University at Buffalo, Mickey Sperlich, PhD, University at Buffalo, Karen Slovak, PhD, MSSA, Capella University and Mark Kaplan, Dr.P.H., UCLA
Gun violence remains high in the United States, especially compared to our peer nations, with 39,772 deaths by guns in 2017, approximately 60% of which were suicides (CDC, 2018). Additionally, over 100,000 people are injured from gun violence each year, potentially resulting in life-long disabilities. Although early reports suggest that violent crime rates - with the notable exception of family violence - are diminished during the lockdowns as a result of COVID19, there are reasons to be concerned that this is temporary. First, gun sales have spiked sharply since the pandemic began, likely due to fears of civil unrest, with reports of a significant increase in first-time gun buyers (Collins & Yaffe-Bellaney, April 1, 2020). Second, suicide rates are expected to increase drastically due to the double whammy of extreme social isolation and the massive national recession (Reger et al., 2020). Third, there have been reports of increased incidence of domestic violence during the pandemic (Sandler, 2020), which may escalate to gun violence.

In recent years, gun violence has received significantly more attention from social work researchers than ever before. This has included the first-ever special issue on the topic in a social work journal (Health and Social Work, November 2019), the formation of a Special Interest Group on gun violence at the annual SSWR conference in 2020, and the first social justice brief on gun violence prevention from the NASW (Lanyi et al., 2019). However, engagement with the topic remains sparse among social workers compared to other disciplines, leaving frontline practitioners with little guidance as to how to best address the topic, though other disciplines have generated useful literature, particularly regarding the effects of policy changes on gun violence.

This roundtable focuses on the ways in which social work researchers can address the seemingly intractable problem of gun violence with attention to recent developments that may help or hinder efforts. Panelists are researchers focusing on trauma and violence prevention, with special expertise on a range of topics related to gun violence.

The first panelist will describe the magnitude and effects (epidemiology, socioeconomic costs, constitutional concerns, the power of pro-gun groups) of the problem of gun violence, with attention to how trends are affected in the current turbulent era. A second panelist will describe efforts to develop courses on gun violence prevention for social workers, both in the academic context and for continuing education. Next, a third panelist will present the findings on an intervention designed to bolster clinical social worker's skills in addressing access to lethal means. Finally, a fourth panelist will provide information on funding opportunities available to social work researchers.

Beyond these presentations, this roundtable will highlight both the successes and failures of attempts to generate a new social work research agenda to stem the tide of gun violence with the aim of kickstarting more collaborations and research. Time will be provided for engagement with attendees to discuss their research on this issue.

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