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US Church Shooting Highlights Importance of Gun Crime Research

In February this year, a group of researchers from Coventry University launched an international study into gun enabled crime, which will eventually provide EU policy-makers with an expansive body of knowledge that will influence future decisions.

The EFFECT project aims to provide policy-makers with information on the extent and nature of gun-enabled crime within Europe. It will also be able to give definitive information on the effectiveness of gun crime intervention, as well as the sharing of ballistic intelligence across national borders.

Today, the devastating incident at a South Carolina church draws attention once again to the global problem of gun crime, and highlights the importance of projects such as EFFECT.

The Charleston Shooting

The UK awoke to the news yesterday morning that at around 21:00 local time on Wednesday, a gunman opened fire within a church in the town of Charleston, South Carolina. Eight people were killed within the church, and another later died in the hospital. The gunman, described as being a white male in his 20s, reportedly sat in the church, where a prayer meeting was taking place, before standing and opening fire at those present. The church’s pastor was amongst those killed.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has historically been a prominent place of worship within the local black community, with its roots stemming from a group of slaves and free men in 1791. The social significance of the church, along with the recent racial tensions in Charleston following the killing of Walter Scott, have led the city’s police chief to describe the attack as a “hate crime”.

The Global Problem

The world is, of course, outraged by the senseless murder of innocent people in a place of worship. However, in the state of South Carolina, people can purchase handguns, shotguns and rifles without a permit. The laws surrounding gun control in America have always generated controversy, and this latest tragedy will reignite that particular debate for many.

However, the problem is by no means solely a US-based one. The stricter gun laws in the UK did not prevent the Cumbria shootings in 2010; and nor did they stop the politically-motivated massacre at a youth camp in Norway in 2011, in which 85 young people were killed.  Evidently, we are all still at risk of gun enabled crime, regardless of where we are in the world; and it is for this reason that studies such as the EFFECT project are so essential.

“More needs to be done to understand how best to prevent gun crime from happening, including the role of formal and informal gun controls, legislation and person-based interventions.” says Professor Erica Bowen, the Director of the Violence and Interpersonal Aggression research group at Coventry University. “EFFECT will provide both a definitive and timely body of knowledge with regards to the impact of interventions aiming to reduce gun crime.

“We hope that through the EFFECT project we can move towards developing a comprehensive framework for preventing gun crime, which will enable policy makers to tackle gun crime in both a proactive and evidence-based manner. Our thoughts go out to those affected by this latest tragedy, and all those who have been impacted by gun crime.”

Official partners on the project include Calabria University and the Italian State Police, while the research team comprises academics from Belgium, Greece and Germany. The group also works with Arquebus Solutions Ltd, based at Coventry University’s Technology Park. For more information, visit the EFFECT project page.

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Coventry University