Since its founding in 2022, the Center for the Study of Guns & Society (CSGS) has received over $1M in grants and private donations. This generous support allows CSGS to conduct impactful, path-breaking research and to contribute to interdisciplinary humanities scholarship and teaching on the social and cultural history of guns.

Current research projects include:

“Firearms use and regulation in the 18th and 19th centuries: Modeling the Application of Historical Methods for Law and Policy in the Bruen Era”

Brennan Gardner Rivas at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries & Archives
Brennan Gardner Rivas at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries & Archives

With the support of an $830,000 grant from Arnold Ventures, CSGS has hired two postdoctoral researchers, Brennan Gardner Rivas and Evan Turiano, both with U.S. History PhDs, for a two-year, in- depth study of 18th and 19th century firearms laws and culture. In spring 2024, they began studying the interrelationships of people, places, and arms across five diverse states (CT, CA, OK, MS, and OH). A primary objective of the project is to create a field guide for judges and others interested in this area of study. The project also promises to enrich historical understanding of the changing contexts, uses, and public attitudes towards firearms through data collection and analysis of archival and primary sources.

In March 2024, Jennifer Tucker and Rivas visited several archives in the Oklahoma City area, connecting with archivists and curators who are collaborators on this project. They were excited to find the Native American tribal collections housed in Oklahoma, which provide new insights into Indigenous communities’ relationships to guns and gun regulation.

“Engineering Safety into U.S. Firearms, 1750-2010: Inventions, Manufacturers, Outcomes, and Implications”

A 2023 “Dangers and Opportunities of Technology” award of $150,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) supports a two-year research project led by Tucker and Stephen Hargarten, MD (Medical College of Wisconsin’s Comprehensive Injury Center) on historical firearms patent records. Utilizing multiple tools and databases, the research will result in the first academic reports about the history of efforts to design safety into firearms and the nature of cultural and scientific discussions about them since 1750.

Gun Safety Patent

CSGS is partnering with Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center (QAC), to research U.S. patents related to firearm innovation since the founding of the U.S. Patent Office in 1802. Maryam Gooyabadi, an assistant professor at the QAC, is supervising students who are downloading data and developing a program to streamline analysis.

Maya Seshan, a medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin, is working with Hargarten on research examining the chronology, purpose, and case studies for a selected number of gun safety patents. Together, with CSGS, they will elucidate the genesis and historical context for these patents and the healthcare perspectives on these safety features specifically, utilizing the patent data as well as archival data and gun manufacturing histories. 

As part of this project, Tucker and Hargarten will visit Washington, D.C. to study archives of how physician and public health leaders have responded to firearm safety projects and to what extent, if any, health professionals were involved in manufacturing safety tests.

“Developing and Evaluating a Civilian Arms Lethality Index for Firearms: A Research/Planning Meeting Proposal”

Bullet In Gel

With a $26,000 grant from Arnold Ventures, CSGS recently completed a case study about the feasibility of designing a lethality index for non-military firearms. The aim of this study was to demonstrate proof of concept and ability to conduct rigorous scientific testing to quantify the terminal ballistics of a variety of bullets and firearms across a timeline of 1800s to the present. This research moves us closer towards informing the development of a robust civilian lethality metric. It has the potential for informing significant policy and clinical outcomes and for the contemporary understanding and classification of firearms and ammunition.

“Colt Firearms Manufacturing in London”

Colt London Factory, courtesy of CT Historical Society
Colt London Factory, courtesy of CT Historical Society

Thanks to flexible grant funding, CSGS associate director Joseph Slaughter travels to London this summer to conduct research on Sam Colt’s London factory in the 1850s, as a part of his current project on 19th century gun manufacturers. While in London he will be researching in the Guildhall Library, Parliamentary Archives, and National Archives.