Sonali Rajan Invited to Join the Nation’s First Gun Violence Research Team

Sonali Rajan, Assistant Professor of Health Education

Rajan joins top researchers across multiple disciplines whose work will support a regional coalition’s efforts to stop gun violence

to join a multidisciplinary group of researchers and policy-makers who will pursue research and collect, share and analyze data aimed at developing and testing solutions to the gun violence epidemic.

The nation’s first regional gun violence research consortium was created by States for Gun Safety, an alliance formed initially in February 2018 following the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida and is being spearheaded by the governors of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Puerto Rico. The group will conduct and share research across multiple disciplines in all seven member jurisdictions. It is a significant effort to fill a void created by 1996 legislation that effectively banned the use of federal funds for gun violence prevention research and obstructed federally funded research efforts across the nation, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

The research consortium “will provide the public, including policymakers, with new information to ultimately reduce the scourge of gun violence,” according to a statement by the seven governors in late April. “This groundbreaking consortium fills the void left by the federal government's 1996 ban on the use of federal funds to study gun violence.”

“I’m excited and honored to be part of this effort,” said Rajan (Ed.D. ’10), an emerging expert on gun violence in schools and as a public health issue. She said a high priority for the group would be to secure funding for innovative research from federal as well as private and nonprofit sources. “The importance of this consortium is rooted in the fact that gun violence as a public health phenomenon is deeply understudied. We need significant resources to more clearly understand the etiology of this epidemic and, importantly, how to effectively stop it.”

The research group so far includes 38 academics and policymakers who study gun violence from a wide range of perspectives, including leading epidemiologists, criminal justice and legal experts, physicians and addiction specialists, experts on education policy, and bullying prevention researchers.

“Imagine if we took the resources and political will we’ve seen with other public health issues – making roads safer, addressing the obesity epidemic, to name just a couple of examples – and applied that to the American gun violence crisis; just think about the kind of progress we could make,” Rajan said. “I am looking forward to learning from and working with this innovative and extraordinarily knowledgeable team on what is one of the most challenging social crises of our time.”

In 2016, Business Insider published an interview with Rajan, and Rajan published an opinion piece on the Teachers College website. Rajan received Teachers College’s Strage Junior Faculty Prize in 2015.