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120 Initiative Presents Pathway to Fewer Gun Deaths

University Research Consortium Co-led by Pines Releases Recommendations on Curbing Gun Violence

By Sala Levin ’10

Pines speaks at podium during 120 Initiative conference

UMD President Darryll J. Pines addresses a conference of the 120 Initiative on Gun Violence, a group of D.C.-area academics committed tackling firearm crime in the U.S. Below, Joseph Richardson, the Joel and Kim Feller Endowed Professor of African American studies and Anthropology, speaks in a panel at the group's inaugural regional conference.

Photos by Stephanie S. Cordle

Expanding community engagement and violence interruption programs, promoting gun safety devices and training, and introducing anti-violence education and messaging campaigns hold the most promise for reducing gun violence, according to a new set of recommendations from the 120 Initiative on Gun Violence, a group of experts from Washington, D.C.-area universities co-led by the University of Maryland.

The consortium presented the policy paper today at its inaugural regional conference on gun violence reduction. Held at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., it brought together some 200 scholars, activists and policymakers to talk about the new findings that provide tangible steps to take, individually and collectively, to drive down the number of gun deaths and injuries in the U.S.

“Our charge is to find ways to reduce gun violence not just through legislation and regulation, but by changing human behavior and the conditions that lead to lost lives,” UMD President Darryll J. Pines said in an opening address. He co-founded the initiative with George Mason University President Gregory Washington.

To make its recommendations, the 120 Initiative, named for the average number of people who die every day due to gun violence in the U.S., worked with more than 100 experts in areas ranging from public and mental health to citizen advocacy, technology and education.

The research team, which spent seven months analyzing available research on violence-reduction strategies, agreed that such approaches would work best in combination with smart policy and legislation, funding of in-depth scholarship, expanded mental health services and investments in long-term approaches to addressing systemic inequities—which come into play long before a trigger is pulled, a UMD researcher said in a panel discussion at the conference.

Joseph Richardson speaks at 120 Initiative conference

“Many of the factors (that contribute to gun violence) are further upstream,” said Joseph Richardson, the Joel and Kim Feller Endowed Professor of African American studies and Anthropology, whose violence intervention research starts in the hospital setting.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, nearly 7,000 people have died as a result of gun violence since the start of 2023.

“These recommendations are directly inspired by the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, which caused the nation to cry out for someone to do something to finally end the nation’s epidemic of gun violence,” said GMU’s Washington. “Our faculties have come together to offer solutions that can be implemented alongside wise legislation, adapted to broad varieties of communities, and address this problem at its roots. We don’t have to feel helpless to the problem anymore.”

For Pines, colleges and universities are the ideal setting for tackling grand challenges such as this. “Our campuses were designed to be marketplaces of ideas and laboratories for democracy,” he said. “So let’s dedicate them to its very survival.”



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