Project GRIP Overview


The goal of Project GRIP (Gun-Related Injury Prevention) is to reduce gun-related injuries and deaths, like suicides and homicides. Right now, there is a communication gap between gun owners and users and the people who are working to prevent suicides, homicides and assaults. The Project GRIP research team is working with gun owners and users and people in communities with high rates of violence to better understand people’s attitudes, behaviors and practices around guns. Project GRIP wants to connect everyone's voices to create solutions that work to prevent deaths and save lives.


University of South Alabama faculty researchers have received a $1.8 million federal grant to collaborate with gun owners in devising strategies to reduce injury and death. The grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will fund the three-year project to address gun-related suicides and homicides. The initial research will focus on the south Alabama region. While much of the national discussion centers on access to firearms, the approach by Assistant Professor Dr. Krista Mehari and Professor Dr. Phillip Smith will focus on better understanding the perspective of people who possess and own guns to improve public health strategies. The project is in collaboration with Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Guns are used in more than half of all suicides and three-quarters of all homicides in the United States. Homicide and suicide disproportionally affect two groups: Violence causes 41 percent of deaths of African American boys and men between the ages of 15 and 34, and suicide causes 17 percent of deaths among white boys and men between the ages of 15 and 44.* Prevention measures among these groups, however, have had limited and varying success due to a cultural disconnect between those strategies and the populations at most risk.

The research team at South will work to better understand people’s reactions to existing gun injury prevention strategies, as well as beliefs about the most effective ways to reduce intentional gun injuries. This data will be shared to inform public health approaches to injury prevention.

“We want to build a bridge that brings together people who value gun ownership and those who wish to save the lives of fellow Americans,” Dr. Phillip Smith said. “We want to educate the science about the importance of gun ownership and find new ways of reducing the number of suicides and homicides in the U.S. that everyone can get on board with.”


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2016). Deaths, percent of total deaths, and death rates for the 15 leading causes of death in 5-year age groups, by race and sex: United States, 2015.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Injury Prevention and Control. (2020). Fatal injury data: Leading causes of death. Web-based injury statistics and reporting system.

Kochanek, K. D., Murphy, S. L., Xu, J., & Arias, E. (2019). Deaths: Final data for 2019. National Vital Statistics Reports, 68(9), 1-77.

The Process

In the first two years of the project, in-depth interviews will be conducted with more than 200 people to help the Project GRIP team better understand people’s relationship with guns and their attitudes toward guns, as well as their ideas about and reactions to different prevention strategies for suicide, homicide, and assault. The research team will use this information to develop national surveys, which will occur in the third year of the project.

The Team

“Our goal is to make your voice heard so that we can start bridging the communication gap,” Dr. Krista Mehari said. “We want to connect everyone’s voices so that we can come up with useful strategies that work to keep people from killing themselves and other people.”

Advisory Boards

The Project GRIP research team will establish a Gun Owner Advisory Board and a Community Advisory Board. The Gun Owner Advisory Board will be comprised of people who are members of the gun-owning community, including people who use guns for sport, hunting, and self-defense. The Community Advisory Board will be comprised of people who are or have been members of communities in which gun violence and community violence is a problem. 

The research team is recruiting community members to be part of the Project GRIP Advisory Boards. Members would agree to monthly meetings to provide their advice, insight and feedback on the project. Members will be given $25 an hour for their time, and refreshments will be served at every meeting.

Community Research Assistants

The Project GRIP research team is looking to hire community research assistants who have experience as a gun owner or have lived in communities impacted by gun violence. The community research assistants will help recruit participants, develop interview questions, conduct interviews and interpret data.

Minimum qualifications include a high school diploma or equivalent; strong verbal communication abilities and relationship-building skills; and ability to use recording equipment and electronic communication technologies (email, computers, word processing software). Community research assistants will need personal transportation between project sites, but mileage will be compensated. Hourly pay is $25 an hour.

Research Team

Krista Mehari
Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of South Alabama

Phillip Smith
Professor of Psychology, Director of Clinical Training at the University of South Alabama

Albert Farrell
Professor of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University


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