The prevalence of firearm violence in the United States indicates a need for continued research into the contextual factors of firearm violence. In 2018, almost 40,000 Americans were killed with firearms (39,740, an average of 109 per day), with suicide deaths representing the largest portion of firearm violence (61.5%). A considerable amount of research has focused on vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by firearm violence and on pre-injury risk and protective factors associated with firearm violence at varying levels of the social economic model. Still, there is a critical need for more information on the moment of crisis immediately before the act of firearm violence. The proposed project will meet Objective 1: Research to help inform the development of innovative and promising opportunities to enhance safety and prevent firearm-related injuries, deaths, and crime. We will complete a secondary data analysis of text data from Crisis Text Line (CTL), a nonprofit organization that provides free, around-the-clock support to anyone during any crisis via text message (using Funding Option A to support research projects that rely on existing data and do not support implementation of prevention activities). CTL?s real-time dataset includes more than 141 million messages between texters and crisis counselors, and many of the messages are related to firearm violence?most often to impending acts of suicide, domestic violence, and mass shootings. This work will use innovative methodological approaches to examine text conversations related to multiple types of firearm violence. More specifically, the research agenda includes four aims that will (1) use content analysis to examine how texters initiate and continue conversations related to firearm violence; (2) compare texts related to firearm crises with those related to non-firearm crises, including determining demographic profiles and locations of texters and the marketing channels by which they access crisis support, (3) identify modifiable and non-modifiable risk and protective factors for different types of firearm crises relative to those of non-firearm crises, including gun availability, motivations for gun ownership, possession, acquisition, use, safe storage practices, adverse childhood experience, co- occurring substance use, social isolation, and lack of access to care; and (4) track the various types of firearm texts before and after the coronavirus pandemic and consider how pandemic- specific anxieties are affecting the texts. Findings from this study have the potential to move the field toward a data-informed approach to developing prevention programming and achieving population-level reductions in firearm violence and co-occurring behaviors.

Public Health Relevance

This study will use Crisis Text Line (CTL) data to examine situational variables at play during firearm-related crises. We will (1) conduct content analysis to characterize types of firearm violence crises, (2) identify modifiable and non-modifiable risk and protective factors for different types of firearm crises, (3) compare the distribution of CTL-tagged crisis issues (depression, self-harm, bullying, isolation, etc.) between firearm and non-firearm-related crises, and (4) estimate the association between the COVID-19 pandemic and rates of crisis hotline use for firearm-related texts, using an interrupted time series approach. Our findings will provide insight about the best ways to prevent firearm violence for indicated (at-risk) populations.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZCE1)
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Wright, Marcienne
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Research Triangle Institute
Research Triangle Park
United States
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