UB social work researcher named to co-lead the Grand Challenge to Prevent Gun Violence

Concept of gun violence with a gun pictured like an iceburg with a small figure standing on the part above the water.

Release Date: December 5, 2023

Portrait of Social Work Assistant Professor Patricia Logan-Greene Photographer: Douglas Levere.

Patricia Logan-Greene

The number of people bereaved or traumatized by gun violence is taking a staggering toll on Americans’ mental health.
Patricia Logan-Greene, associate professor and associate dean for academic affairs
University at Buffalo School of Social Work

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A University at Buffalo social work researcher is among the leaders of a new national endeavor to prevent gun violence.

Patricia Logan-Greene, PhD, an associate professor and associate dean for academic affairs in the UB School of Social Work, will co-chair the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare’s (AASWW) Grand Challenge to Prevent Gun Violence.

The gun violence initiative is the 14th and latest addition to the AASWW’s Grand Challenges of Social Work, the organization’s collaborative flagship program that combines the scientific innovations generated through social work’s knowledge and research base with similar work being done by community leaders and professionals in other disciplines to address the nation’s most challenging social problems.

Logan-Greene will join co-chairs Deborah Gorman-Smith, PhD, dean and Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor in the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, and Neil B. Guterman, PhD, Paulette Goddard Professor of Social Work and dean emeritus at New York University School of Social Work, who submitted a proposal to the AASWW to lead the organization’s work in this new field of focus.

Firearms were the No. 1 killer of children and teens in the United States last year, having overtaken motor vehicle accidents as a leading cause of death, according to Logan-Greene.

“There have been a number of highly successful public initiatives such as safer cars and safer car seats, and mandatory seat belt use, that have kept kids safer in motor vehicles,” says Logan-Greene. “We can’t eliminate motor vehicle deaths, nor will we be able to eliminate firearm deaths for kids, but gun deaths are increasing for children.

“And it’s because there is so much backlash against the analogous public health measures that might prevent gun violence.”

Logan-Greene says a rider to a 1997 spending bill known as the Dickey Amendment prohibited federally funded gun violence research for decades. Although some funds have been allotted to gun violence research in recent years, the prohibition significantly thwarted research, allowing for the problem of gun violence to grow. Some researchers are concerned that the lifting of the Dickey prohibitions is temporary.

“There are social work researchers doing excellent work on gun violence prevention, but the federal government is a major funder of basic research in this country,” says Logan-Greene. “Excluding any of that money from research to prevent gun violence is a terrible loss to people who might be affected by the problem and the front line clinicians looking for guidance about what they should do in practice.”

This new Grand Challenges area brings increased attention, energy and effort on the part of social workers to kick-start research and guidance on how to address gun violence. Researchers from across the country have already gathered to begin drafting an agenda to address what needs to be done in terms of practice, policy and further research.

Logan-Greene says there is already a push in some medical fields among pediatricians, emergency room physicians and trauma surgeons to talk about firearm safety and ways to limit access to firearms for those in crisis.

“I feel social work is in a good position to achieve these goals because we have ongoing relationships with many of the populations who are most at risk from different types of firearms violence, including suicide, homicide, victimization and accidental injuries and deaths,” she says. “If we could mobilize the nation’s social workers to talk about these issues with clients, especially clients in crisis or clients with a family member in crisis, I genuinely believe we can reduce the number of deaths.”

Yet to fully understand gun violence requires looking beyond homicides. Suicides account for roughly 60% of gun deaths annually in the country, and popular media coverage includes neither those who were nonfatally injured nor those who witnessed the violence.

“The number of people bereaved or traumatized by gun violence is taking a staggering toll on Americans’ mental health,” says Logan-Greene. “There are many things we can do to prevent gun violence and its effects that do not involve changing or severely restricting people’s second amendment rights.”

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