New Mexico is one of 10 states selected to receive funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to participate in a three-year study on firearm injuries.
Gun control advocates say such a study is long overdue and will help local and state governments figure out how and where to direct resources aimed at reducing gun violence that doesn’t end in death but still destroys lives by inflicting wounds and expenses.
“It’s actually exciting,” said Miranda Viscoli, co-president of the nonprofit New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.
“We’ve been flying blind,” she said in an interview Friday. “We don’t know how much it’s costing our state. We don’t know how many people are actually being injured because the data isn’t being collected. We know how many are being shot and killed, and those are horrific numbers.
“The more we can get any data [on gun violence] … the more we can work on prevention with a multipronged approach,” Viscoli continued. “… There is an uptick here in New Mexico, and we need to rein it in. We needed to rein it in 20 years ago, and now it’s getting worse and worse.”
The study, scheduled to last through 2023, will involve collecting data in “near real-time” from emergency room visits for treatment of nonfatal gunshot wounds. The data will be used to develop policy changes and recommendations for allocation of resources.
For example, Viscoli said, a recent increase in gun violence among young people in Santa Fe appears to be tied to drug deals, many involving methamphetamine. Emergency room data on how many survivors of gunshot wounds had the drug in their system could confirm the trend and help inform attempts to combat it.
The CDC has awarded about $2.2 million for the study, according to a news release. The District of Columbia also will participate in the study, along with Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
New Mexico has been awarded $150,000 per year for the duration of the study, state Department of Health spokeswoman Hannah Long said.
Health Department staff wrote in an application for the program “a high percentage of New Mexico’s population owns firearms.” The application quoted a 2013 study that found an estimated 49.9 percent of New Mexico adults owned firearms, as opposed to 29.1 percent of U.S. adults overall.
New Mexico ranked fourth in the nation in 2019 for its rate of gun deaths, CDC data shows. It also ranked second in the nation that year for the rate of women murdered by men, according to the most recent edition of an annual study by the Violence Policy Center titled “When Men Murder Women.” The state’s rate of 2.64 homicide deaths per 100,000 females in 2019 is more than twice the national rate, the Violence Policy Center said in a statement.
Viscoli said New Mexicans to Prevent Gun violence is lobbying state lawmakers to get serious about the issue.
“We’re working to pass legislation this next session to start an office of gun violence prevention,” she said. “Then government can take this data and start really figuring out how the state of New Mexico can get ahead of what is our other pandemic. Because this is also filling up our hospital beds. They are getting two to three victims every day in Albuquerque. And this could help us get head of that.”
Viscoli said Democratic state Reps. Dayan Hochman-Vigil and Kay Bounkeua, both of Albuquerque, have agreed to sponsor the legislation.