Dr. Rosenberg argued that gun violence prevention and gun rights are not at odds with each other. It is possible, he said, to come up with policies that protect both the rights of gun owners and public health. Dr. Swanson believes red flag laws are just such a policy. The push for them has been 10 years in the making.
In January 2013, just weeks after a gunman killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Daniel Webster, a pioneer in the field of gun violence research, convened a two-day summit on reducing gun violence.
Along with Mr. Horwitz, Dr. Webster directs Hopkins’s Center for Gun Violence Solutions. Mr. Horwitz runs advocacy, while Dr. Webster oversees academic research. The goal of the summit, Dr. Webster said, was to put together evidence-based “recommendations for what policymakers should be doing to address gun violence in America,” and publish it quickly, to influence congressional negotiations.
But the resulting book — including chapters by Dr. Swanson and Dr. Wintemute — failed to move members of Congress, who passed no new laws.
Two months later, Mr. Horwitz convened a research consortium, he said, “to really think through how to deal with this issue of firearms, mass shootings, suicide, without stigmatizing people with mental illness.”
Soon, Dr. Swanson, Mr. Horwitz and others in the consortium began traveling the country, promoting evidence-based policies, including red flag laws, to state legislators. In 2014, California became the first state since Indiana to adopt a red flag law. Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia have them.