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Violence Prevention Research Program

Violence Prevention Research Program

Garen J. Wintemute, M.D., M.P.H.

Professor of Emergency Medicine
Director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program
Inaugural Susan P. Baker-Stephen P. Teret Chair in Violence Prevention at UC Davis

Garen Wintemute is a pioneer in the field of injury epidemiology and the prevention of firearm violence, which results in approximately 30,000 deaths a year and approximately 75,000 nonfatal injuries seen in hospital emergency departments. In the 1980s, he was among the first to look at the problem of guns and violence as a public-health issue and emphasize the importance of prevention, even for clinicians. At that time, guns and the violence associated with them were considered as a mental-health or crime problem.

Wintemute is an emergency medicine physician at UC Davis Medical Center, one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation, but he also conducts innovative research to prevent people from ever becoming patients in an emergency department. He often employs personal courage in his pursuit of data and insights, working undercover at gun stores, gun shows and pawn shops to investigate how illegal sales are made.

His  longstanding commitment to understand the nature of firearm violence and its underlying causes has produced a uniquely rich and informative body of research on firearm violence that directly improves the health and safety of Americans and that has positioned California — and UC Davis — as national leaders in efforts to break the cycle of gun violence. He has testified before Congress, the California Legislature and various local governments and has served as a consultant for the National Institute of Justice; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • In a series of large-scales studies, he demonstrated that denying firearm purchases by high-risk individuals significantly reduces their risk of committing violent crimes. This work also identified important risk factors for violent crime among those who purchase firearms legally.
  • His research has demonstrated the importance of unregulated private-party gun sales, at gun shows and elsewhere, as a source of guns used in crime. The findings point to specific policy-based solutions.
  • After the schoolyard deaths of four children in Stockton by a man using an assault weapon, he assembled data on assault weapons and served as a technical advisor to the state Legislature as it worked to ban assault weapons in California.
  • In “Ring of Fire," a landmark report on the gun industry published in 1994, he identified a small family of manufacturers in the Los Angeles area that produced cheap guns used in thousands of firearm crimes each year. The report led to local and statewide bans on the manufacture of "Saturday-night specials" and related guns. Today, all of the original manufacturers, except one, are out of business.
  • He has just completed the first-ever survey research on licensed firearm retailers and the evaluation of a new effort in California to  prevent the use of guns in domestic violence.

Wintemute earned his medical degree in 1977 from UC Davis School of Medicine, where he also completed his residency in family medicine. In 1981, he was medical coordinator at Nong Samet Refugee Camp in Cambodia, a remote area that had only recently been liberated from the governance of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. Dr. Wintemute later returned stateside to merge his medical training with public policy, and earned an M.P.H. at Johns Hopkins in 1983.