DC-area colleges, universities come together to research ways to combat gun violence

The campus of George Washington University is seen nearly empty as classes were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, in Washington, DC, May 7, 2020. - The cost of a university education in the United States has long been eye-watering, with a year costing tens of thousands of dollars. But as the coronavirus crisis settles in, students -- many of whom take out huge loans to finance their degrees -- are wondering how to justify spending $70,000 a year on.... Zoom classes. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)(AFP via Getty Images/SAUL LOEB)
A group of colleges and universities in the D.C. area is putting its research together to find ways to reduce gun violence.

“Every university president worries that the next mass shooting event is going to occur on their campus,” said Gregory Washington, president of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. “Historically, universities have been targets of violence.”

Washington said that’s what prompted GMU to join the University of Maryland in launching a group of colleges and universities in the D.C. region called the 120 Initiative, named for the more than 120 people who die on average each day from gun violence.

The initiative is organized by the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.

“The goal was to really move away from the political realm, and to really focus on things that academics focus on really well,” Washington said. “The social economic issues related to gun violence, technology issues related to gun violence, the whole criminology, law and society piece and aspect of it as well.”

The group includes researchers and experts from more than a dozen colleges and universities:

Next comes putting together what they’re already working on.

“If we can come out with a set of practical solutions that can be implemented by local and state governments, by companies and corporations, and by universities and schools at every level, we would consider that a big win,” Washington said.

According to the consortium, the U.S. has had at least 314 mass shootings since the start of 2022, and gun violence through suicide, domestic abuse, and other assaults has resulted in more than 23,500 deaths so far in 2022.

“There is no relief in sight, it seems, as we look outward, it’s just a steady stream of more and more violence,” Washington said.

The 120 Initiative will look at a range of areas using experts and researchers. These areas include gun violence, public and mental health, polarization, business sector engagement, citizen advocacy, education, and technology.

After looking at the research available, the initiative will come up with next steps in about six months with evidence-based recommendations.

“The brainpower that exists at those institutions puts us in a unique position to bring some of the brightest minds in the country together to help make recommendations and solve this problem,” Washington said.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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