What do we know about gun violence in the United States and what do we need to know? In the past decade a spate of mass shootings across the United States has galvanized attention to gun violence and gun policy. Shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a country music concert in Las Vegas, and the 2018 school shootings in Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe High School in Texas have driven activists, politicians, and regular Americans from all sides of the political spectrum to engage with this issue. The long-term impact of the public response to these mass shootings remains unclear, but one of the effects has been calls for more research on gun violence and the lifting of restrictions on federal support for such research. This Items series, curated by Professor Jonathan Metzl (Vanderbilt University), will examine new research agendas for the study of guns and gun violence in this pivotal moment in the United States.

How might social science research provide a deeper understanding of gun violence from the perspective of scholarship and/or public policy? What new areas of focus might emerge or are emerging? What should an interdisciplinary, forward-looking social science research agenda on gun violence look like? In recent years, a growing number of scholars have started tackling these questions, developing a nascent, rich body of social science research. These essays, written by several of these researchers and thinkers, reflect on the state of the field and suggest new pathways to better understand guns in the United States.