A new center for gun research that says it will provide alternative points of view in the gun debate is the first venture of its kind at an academic institution in recent years, one funded in part by industry — the firearms industry, to be specific. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Firearms Research Center at the University of Wyoming law school diverges from the standard in gun research, where university research centers tend to be funded by government or private foundations. Its founding comes amid a renewed debate over gun control following recent mass shootings and a rise in gun violence during the first two years of the pandemic.
The center's founders, law professor George Mocsary and gun historian Ashley Hlebinsky, declined to disclose the names of their backers or how much money had been donated. They said the center, which includes an additional law professor and a researcher, will offer public lectures and a website with legal scholarship and exhibits on firearms history. They said they hope to research issues on how to prevent suicides involving firearms and to hold symposia on gun-policy issues that include people such as hunters, members of the military and law enforcement officers. “To have credibility, we have to welcome all voices,” said Mocsary, who has previously done research and written articles opposing some gun regulations and arguing that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms. “It’s important for this to be an ongoing conversation, not just when a tragedy happens.” Mocsary and Hlebinsky said donations from gun-industry executives won’t influence their work. However, researchers on gun violence and gun policy from other universities said such donations raise questions about the center’s impartiality. Academics who believe existing research is biased toward gun control welcomed the new center. Robert Leider, an assistant law professor at George Mason University, said at other centers researching guns and gun violence, “if you look at what their scholars are doing, it’s all pro gun-control…There is very much a need for a center that goes in the opposite way.” Leider and others who believe existing firearms research is biased in favor of regulation often point to the gun-research center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, named for prominent gun-control advocate Michael Bloomberg.