The most recent massacre in San Bernardino and other horrific acts of violence encountered in the U.S. and abroad spur the polarizing debate around gun ownership and its easy access. There would be little debate if the number of firearms-related deaths was small, but that is not the case. Firearms contribute to over 30,000 deaths by homicides and suicides annually. This does not include the more than 70,000 nonfatal injuries. The per capita rate of gun injuries and deaths in the U.S. far exceeds all European countries and Japan combined.
While research on adverse health effects is required for most consumer goods, from toys to cosmetics, none exists for guns.
To illustrate the positive effects of research, we can examine the advancements made in motor-vehicle safety. In 2013, motor vehicles contributed to 33,804 deaths, about the same number as guns (33,646). In contrast to gun-related deaths, this is the lowest deaths per capita ever and half that of 1975, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This improvement was possible because of the tremendous resources that went into collecting data on vehicles, the people who drive them, and the roads.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration 2015 budget for safety research and development is $122 million. This does not include the research funding imbedded in its budget for vehicle safety ($152 million) and Highway Traffic Safety Grants to states ($577 million). It also does not include the vast amounts of resources auto manufacturers invest in safety. Resources for data and research enable NHTSA to know that 50 percent of people killed in crashes are unbelted; 30 percent of highway fatalities involve an impaired driver; and 90 percent of crashes involve an element of human error. The research leads to innovations like airbags, high-strength occupant cages and crumple zones; laws and regulations such as drunk-driving laws, seat-belt and cell-phone use laws; and environmental improvements like better street lighting, safer guardrails, and improved signage.