Gun violence is an epidemic that plagues that Black community, and it has continued to persist for many reasons. Some may say it can be contributed to poverty, gangs, musical influence, or even a toxic need to prove oneself. A new study involving HBCUs like Coppin State University will now delve into how and why young Black men are particularly susceptible to being victims or perpetrators of gun violence.

Coppin State University, courtesy of The Blue Book

Coppin State University (CSU) has received a two-year, $100,290 grant, to study the attitudes and reasons that spark young African-American males in urban areas pick up and carry guns, in an effort to reduce the problem.

Lead investigator at CSU, Dr. Johnny Rice, II, assistant professor of criminal justice, and a selected team of CSU students will investigate the contemporary causes of gun violence, specifically exploring why Black males ages 15-24 in marginalized urban communities possess and carry guns. The team will also explore factors that influence the impulse to carry a gun and what serve as triggers for gun use, based on the perceptions of African-American men interviewed, who live in affected communities in Baltimore city.  

Dr. Johnny Rice, II

The grant was awarded to CSU by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), who received a $1 million grant by the National Collaborative for Gun Violence Research. To implement the study, TMCF brought together leading HBCU Criminal Justice researchers in Houston, TX, Wilmington, DE, Jackson, MS and Baltimore – leveraging the experience, knowledge and status of HBCUs in the African-American community to conduct research on attitudes toward guns ownership, possession, and usage by urban youth; the dynamics of social transmission of gun ownership and possession, carrying a gun, using a gun to threaten someone; and escalation to gun violence. 

“This scientific study will allow our research team to engage and interview African-American men in affected Baltimore communities and acquire their unique perspectives on factors that influence gun possession and use,” said Rice, noting that he hopes the study can lead to ways to lessen the problem.

“We envision that the information gathered from this study will support community-based violence prevention efforts as well as criminal justice crime plans aimed at reducing gun violence.  I am excited to work with our student researchers to address a systemic problem that continues to negatively impact the Black quality of life,” Rice said.

In 2020, there was a reported 335 homicide victims in Baltimore, which reflected a high rate of deaths due to gun violence.  As such, African-American males often are the main perpetrators of such violence as well as the majority of gun violence victims. 

Other HBCU’s participating in the research project are: Texas Southern, Jackson State and Delaware State Universities.