Author: Maxim Sorokopud
Reading Level: Grade 9
Reading Time: 27 minutes, 5 seconds
Published: September 2023
Gun crime in America remains a major issue, with gun deaths being historically high. There are organizations in the US that are trying to reduce gun violence with bold new solutions. Some of the most innovative of these organizations are US colleges. Certain colleges are going above and beyond to find ways to improve public safety from gun crime. This article will highlight 30 of the best.
To some, it may seem impossible to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in America. This is mainly because the Constitution protects gun rights. The colleges listed are working to reduce gun crime without impeding constitutional rights. They are laying out roadmaps that proactively increase gun safety without compromising individual freedoms.
The colleges that have placed the highest on this list can show that their work in reducing gun violence is broad and actionable. The schools that are working on measures and programs that are practical to put in place have been given precedence. This approach ensures that the highest-ranking colleges are the most likely to enact change regarding gun crime.
Any student who wants to attend a college that focuses on reducing the risk of gun violence would benefit from attending any of the colleges ahead. But, it’s also possible that none of the colleges ahead are right for you. If that’s the case, then this ranking can still be a vital tool in your college search. Each entry includes a detailed summary of what the college is doing to prevent gun crime. These have been included to compare and contrast with your college options. If any college you’re considering attending is similarly enacting firearm safety activities as the 30 colleges ahead, that’s a strong sign that it’s worth attending.
The entries in this ranking were initially identified through a range of sources that highlighted the following:
- Colleges that are undertaking gun safety measures
- Colleges that have strong activist traditions
- Colleges that have a focus on preventing violence in general
These sources are as follows:
- Unigo, The 10 Most Politically Active Schools
- Cappex, 2020 Best Colleges for Advocacy & Social Activism
- CM’s Top 10 Schools for Activists
- The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention, Preventing Violence and Promoting Safety in Higher Education Settings
- University Business, How 3 universities are reacting to gun violence outside their campuses
- Inside Higher Ed, Preventing Gun Violence on Campus
- The Princeton Review, Most Politically Active Students
- Higher Ed Dive, How colleges are trying to prevent the next mass shooting
- U.S. News, What to Know About Gun Policies on College Campuses
We then researched further to evaluate the breadth of their gun violence prevention activities. This research formed the final basis for inclusion on this list.
Lastly, any college that was featured on the following list of universities that allow concealed guns on campus was disqualified due to the risk that these policies pose.
The colleges ahead have been ranked with the following criteria:
- Evidence of creating practical gun violence reduction initiatives
- Evidence of a strong history of gun violence reduction activity
- Innovation in creating solutions
- Aggregated ranking on the methodology lists
Tuition figures were taken from the NCES College Navigator tool. The in-state undergraduate tuition costs are listed in this ranking. The results, from 30 to one, are here:
30. The College of William & Mary
In 2020, The College of William & Mary Professor Philip Swenson and alumnus Dustin Crummet collaborated on a paper that aimed to refute a popular argument against gun control. This paper was published in the philosophy journal Ergo. More recently, an article was published by the college-run William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal. It calls for gun control advocates to define how guns threaten the right to free speech. Princeton University considers the college to have the 19th most politically active students.
29. Wellesley College
Wellesley professors conducted a study in 2017. It highlighted increases in gun sales and accidental gun deaths following the Sandy Hook shootings.
This study was subsequently featured in various news sources, including:
- The Los Angeles Times
- The Washington Post
Since this publication, the college’s community has supported gun control measures. Students began gathering to remember the victims of later school shootings. The Princeton Review considers Wellesley College to have the 17th most politically active students.
28. Gonzaga University
In 2021, Gonzaga University Assistant Professor Angela Bruns became the co-principal of a CDC-funded project. It studied how gun violence exposure impacts adolescent well-being. The college’s student campus political groups have also discussed gun control measures. The college has also strictly enforced its campus firearms bans in the past. Students found to have guns within university housing are either expelled or suspended. According to The Princeton Review, Gonzaga University has the 23rd most politically active students.
27. University of Virginia
The University of Virginia collaborated with Charlottesville and Albermarle County law enforcement officials. This was in response to the 2022 shooting on campus. They are working to “enhance safety in the short term and to find solutions in the longer term.” These efforts include:
- Analyzing crime data
- Addressing how police departments partner with mental health services
In March 2023, the college announced the creation of the UVA Community Safety Working Group. It was in response to the shooting. Higher Ed Dive notes that since the shooting occurred, the University of Virginia has heightened its on-campus security measures.
26. The University of Wisconsin, Madison
In 2022, The University of Wisconsin, Madison, highlighted the work of an alumnus, school teacher Melanie Swandby. She collaborated with a colleague, Athena Larios, to develop a gun violence curriculum for school children. Swandby and Larios have since launched a digital toolkit to help schools across the US adopt this curriculum. The college also hosts events that raise awareness of gun crime, such as:
- A film discussion of the movie “The Price of Freedom”
- A symposium on treating gun violence prevention as a public health priority
Unigo considers The University of Wisconsin, Madison, to be the eighth most politically active school in America.
25. Arizona State University
Arizona State University has a Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety. It works to identify patterns of illegal gun acquisition and firearms-related violence. It uses this data to support gun safety measures such as gun symposiums. ASU Professor Jesenia M. Pizarro is a Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms board member. She and others actively participate in gun violence reduction efforts. Also, the college’s performing arts-focused community takes part in gun violence-reduction work, such as:
- Contributing to gun violence operas
- Running gun violence plays
In 2020, the college also published research highlighting that almost three-quarters of gun deaths were suicides. Inside Higher Ed also praises the college for enacting active shooter drills.
24. Brandeis University
In 2022, Brandeis University’s Social Justice and Social Policy Program provided the Brandeis Students Demand Action club with a grant. They held an event that brought gun violence activists to the campus. Researchers at the college’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management developed the Child Opportunity Index. It has been used effectively to measure gun violence risk in communities. The college’s professors have also been proactive in using their positions to promote gun control-related work. For instance, Professor Rajesh Sampath published a paper in the International Journal of Ethics. It critiqued the American ideology regarding gun violence. Cappex considers Brandeis University one of the best colleges for advocating social activism.
23. Fordham University
New York City, New York
In 2021, a US Court of Appeals decision upheld the ability of states to limit individuals from carrying guns in public. This came about partly due to Fordham University Professor Saul Cornell’s work. This work highlighted how different regions within the US had varying gun laws when the Second Amendment was adopted. In the past, other college community members have contributed to measures that aimed to improve gun safety. For instance, in 2016, several social work students traveled to Albany to show support for a new gun safety law. The college’s president, Tania Tetlow, JD, has encouraged students to protest against gun violence, saying, “Students will face no student conduct sanctions for peaceful and respectful demonstrations against gun violence on or off campus.” The Princeton Review names Fordham University as the 18th most politically active students.
22. Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University suffered a mass shooting in February 2023. Since then, the college’s community has proactively called for increased gun laws. Efforts now included rallies, protests, and engaging with local politicians. Other departments within the college held separate events that reinforced this message. The Institute for Public Policy and Social Research held an expert panel discussion on gun safety and policy solutions. This occurred one month after the shooting. Additionally, medical students Jasmanpreet Kaur and Amanda Schoonover founded the college’s Scrubs Addressing the Firearm Epidemic chapter. It has since united over 732 Michigan medical students in urging members of the state legislature to improve gun control laws. Even before the shooting, the college had launched efforts to reduce gun crime. This includes launching a free Coursera course on preventing gun violence in 2019. Higher Ed Dive notes that Michigan State University has tried improving campus safety and training students since the campus shooting.
21. The New School
New York City, New York
In 2018, the New School’s BBA Strategic Design and Management Program associate director launched the public art and design initiative AMPL!FY. It pairs artists and designers with non-profit organizations. They create posters of social justice issues, including gun violence. Before this, Assistant Professor of Politics and Advocacy Jeff Smith, spoke about gun violence-reduction strategies at SXSW. Students of the college are similarly proactive. Sade Swift won awards and scholarships partly due to her gun violence activism. Storm Hurwitz has participated in campaigns that encouraged firearms restriction on college campuses. The Princeton Review names The New School’s Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts as having the 14th most politically active students.
20. Smith College
In 2023 and in previous years, Smith College has hosted several events focused on reducing gun violence. These range from community-building events to poetry recitals focused on gun crime issues. The college’s Jandon Center for Community Engagement has also held events encouraging people to rally, contact elected officials, and discuss gun violence prevention efforts. Cappex considers Smith College to be one of the best colleges for advocacy and social activism. College Magazine names the college the ninth best for activists.
19. James Madison University
In 2023, James Madison University alumnus Abby Zwerner was injured in a school shooting caused by a schoolchild. An alumni chapter of the college founded Abby’s Book Club. It works to purchase and distribute books focused on kindness, empathy, and compassion to schools. In 2022, the college’s Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence presented its National Nonviolence Award to David Hogg. He founded the March For Our Lives Foundation activist group. It focuses on youth action against gun crime. Cappex considers James Madison University to be one of the best colleges for advocacy and social activism. College Magazine considers the college to be the eighth-best school in the US for activists..
18. Pitzer College
The Pitzer College community member who is doing the most to prevent gun violence is alumnus Nurjahan Boulden. She is a gun violence survivor who has developed a gun violence prevention and recovery program. It is designed for schools and other organizations. In 2016, Professor Halford Fairchild also published a book that aimed to resolve a range of violence issues in America. Gun violence is a key focus. The college also has a history of running events such as rallies to raise awareness for gun violence prevention. Cappex considers Pitzer College to be one of the best colleges in America for advocacy and social activism. College Magazine names it the 10th best school for activists. Unigo ranks it as the third most politically active school in the US. The Princeton Review considers the college to have the fourth most politically active students.
17. University of Denver
In recent years, institutions within Denver University have worked to promote initiatives. It includes inviting lawmakers onto campus that encourage gun control measures. Professors like Assistant Professor Trent Seidley have also published many peer-reviewed studies. They highlight the link between crime rates and various gun statistics, such as the prevalence of gun stores in communities. U Denver students have also worked toward gun violence prevention. Shreya Nallapati has started a company called #NeverAgainTech. It uses AI and data analysis to prevent mass shootings. In 2023, students across the college have participated in gun violence protests. University Business notes that, in the wake of several gun violence incidents that occurred near campus, the University of Denver has been working with the Denver Police Department to reduce future incidents.
16. University of Missouri
In 2022, University of Missouri Associate Professor Hsun-Ta Hsu gained a $1.6 million grant from the CDC. It was used to study firearm violence exposure among young adults who were homeless. Hsu sought this funding after discovering that 40% of homeless young adults in a prior study that he conducted reported being involved with gun violence. And in 2023, the college’s medical school revealed two shocking facts regarding gun crime. One of these was that most child victims of gun violence are innocent bystanders. The other was that firearm deaths and injuries involving children increased during the pandemic. Cappex states that the University of Missouri has a strong reputation for advocacy and social activism.
15. University of Nebraska, Omaha
The Nebraska Collaborative for Violence Intervention and Prevention combines the efforts of:
- The University of Nebraska, Omaha’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
- The University of Nebraska Medical College to reduce gun violence
It does this through research, data integration, programming, training, community engagement, and more. The college’s Center for Justice Research has also evaluated the effectiveness of technologies designed to detect gunshots. The college’s community is also involved in gun violence reduction initiatives outside the college. This includes the Nebraska Center for Justice Research Director Ryan Spohn. He has worked as a researcher for the federal gun violence reduction program Project Safe Neighborhoods. Inside Higher Ed notes that the University of Nebraska, Omaha, conducts active shooter drills.
14. The George Washington University
In 2023, The George Washington University collaborated with other colleges in the DC metropolitan area. They published a white paper that provided well-researched recommendations for reducing gun violence. In 2022, the college’s Milken Institute School of Public Health gained a significant National Institutes of Health grant. The grant was “to launch a unique intervention aimed at preventing gun violence.” This initiative will focus on youth and young adults. The Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies has also published significant work on gun control efforts. Cappex considers The George Washington University to be one of the best colleges for advocacy and social activism. College Magazine names it the sixth-best school for activists. Unigo ranks it as the second most politically active school. The Princeton Review considers it to have the eighth most politically active students in the US.
13. University of California, Berkeley
The Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, has organized an event series that has:
- Engaged gun violence experts
- Laid the groundwork for research
- Promoted advocacy
In 2021, a study released by the college highlighted how a program called Advance Peace has helped to decrease firearm homicide attacks in several California cities and how the program has also saved taxpayers millions of dollars. In late 2022, after a fatal shooting occurred near the campus, the college hired a private security firm to provide increased security on campus. And in 2023, the college released a poll highlighting the number of Californians worried about becoming the victim of gun crime. Cappex considers the University of California, Berkeley, to be one of the best colleges for advocacy and social activism. College Magazine names the college the best school for activists.
12. Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
Professor Max Kapustin is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Cornell. He uses his position to research various violence reduction strategies for disadvantaged youth and adults. They focus on gun crime. Additionally, the college’s K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability has partnered with the arts collective OPEN DOORS. They aim to reduce gun violence by providing students with internships at OPEN DOORS. In 2021, Sarah James was a Frank H. T. Rhodes postdoctoral fellow at the Cornell Population Center. She published a study in the journal Health Affairs. It highlighted the sharp ethno-racial and income differences evident in childhood exposure to gun crime incidents. In 2022, Colleen L. Barry, the Dean of the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy joined the board of directors of the Sandy Hook Promise. This is one of America’s top gun violence prevention and school safety organizations. The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research has also researched public attitudes on various gun issues. The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention highlights how Cornell University’s early intervention program run by the Counseling and Advising Network effectively reduces violence.
11. University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
In 2023, the UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research held a symposium. It presented research on addressing gun violence as a health epidemic. This symposium’s keynote speaker was the California Attorney General Rob Bonta. He discussed the state’s recently established Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Also, in 2023, the college published a study that analyzed 18 years of data. It highlighted that the number of guns carried in California school campuses decreased by 70% between 2001 and 2019. In 2022, 70 UCLA students participated in a protest that called for gun law reform. In 2020, the college’s Fielding School of Public Health gained funding from the UC Firearm Violence Research Center. They work with the Los Angeles Police Department to pilot the Lethality Assessment Program. It aims to prevent intimate partner murder. The college’s Center for Health Policy Research also conducts research on gun violence, such as studies that evaluate issues including:
- Firearm ownership
- Perceptions of gun safety
- Gun violence among understudied groups
Higher Ed Dive spoke with University of California, Los Angeles Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor about collaboration between colleges and law enforcement agencies.
10. Tulane University
New Orleans, Louisiana
The Violence Prevention Institute at Tulane University runs the Gun Violence Policy Lab. This lab connects with community partners to gather data to identify the factors influencing gun violence in New Orleans. It also examines the risk and protective factors that contribute to gun violence to provide recommendations for policymakers and others who have the ability to make an impact on gun crime. Work to have come out of the Violence Prevention Institute regarding gun issues includes studies that highlight the association between structural racism and mass shootings, investigations into the sources of stolen guns, and profiles on people who respond to instances of gun violence. In 2022, the college gained funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to distribute gun safes for free. Also, in 2022, the college’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine highlighted how gun violence could be framed as a public health issue and the steps that could be taken to implement this approach in a way that reduces gun crime. In 2023, the college announced that the Violence Prevention Institute and the University Medical Center collaborated with organizations such as the New Orleans Health Department to expand gun safety measures. Also, in 2023, the college’s Newcomb Institute’s research revealed that one in five Lousianans had been threatened or harmed with a gun. The Princeton Review considers Tulane University to have the 21st most politically active students.
9. Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
In 2022, a Brown University study revealed that in certain zip codes in the USA, young men were at a greater risk of firearm death than people who had been deployed to war zones. The college has also collaborated with the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine and Rhode Island Hospital to create a violence prevention curriculum for children aged 12 and older, which can be incorporated into existing programs. A Brown University professor was instrumental in developing that curriculum, Dr. Megan Ranney, has also worked with professors at Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, San Francisco, to create guidelines on educational priorities for healthcare professionals that aim to reduce firearm injury, such as information on effective violence intervention programs. In 2018, Dr. Ranney also worked with the University of Michigan to collaborate on a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-funded project that aimed to expand the evidence base on gun violence issues. Presently, Dr. Ranney continues to perform gun violence reduction work, such as through partnering with the media analysis nonprofit Harmony Labs to explore ways of introducing evidence-based public health messaging regarding firearms. The Princeton Review considers Brown University to have the 20th most politically active students.
8. American University
The gun violence prevention efforts at American University stretch beyond the United States. For example, in March 2023, the college held a competition with a $1,000 first prize, which encouraged students to develop solutions to gun violence in Brazil. Other work that the college has conducted has highlighted issues with US gun violence, such as running studies that indicate that state-level background check laws are being improperly implemented. The college has also improved gun regulations on campus in recent years in response to Washington, D.C., approving a concealed carry gun law. Cappex states that American University is known for advocacy and social activism. College Magazine names it the second-best school for activists. Unigo considers it to be the most politically active school in America. The Princeton Review considers it to have the 16th most politically active students.
7. University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland
The Violence Reduction Center at the University of Maryland focuses on producing research and programs that reduce crime in the USA, particularly gun crime. In late 2023, its partnership with Arizona State University is due to present a systematic review of street outreach programs. In 2022, the college’s president also collaborated with the president of George Mason University to launch The 120 Initiative, which aims to engage a range of colleges in the DC metropolitan area to “advance action research-based plans to reduce gun violence.” Others at the college, such as Dr. Joseph Richardson, focus on using their positions to research solutions to gun violence. Overall, the college can provide dozens of examples of gun violence prevention efforts that its community has undertaken. University Business highlights how the University of Maryland president is working to reduce gun violence.
6. Bennington College
One of Bennington College’s visiting faculty members is Dr. Christopher Barsotti, who founded the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine. In 2021, the college promoted Dr. Barsotti’s cause by running a virtual event focused on communities building alliances for firearm injury prevention. The college also has a strong history of proactive gun violence reduction initiatives, which range from participating in national observations that promote the end of gun crime to joining with other colleges to discuss gun control initiatives with law enforcement officials. The college’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action has also launched online classes focusing on firearm injury prevention. The Princeton Review considers Bennington College to have the fifth most politically active students of any US college. Cappex states that the college is known for its advocacy and social activism.
5. Wesleyan University
The Center for the Study of Guns and Society was established at Wesleyan University in April 2022. This center supports a conference for historians, student research internships, and collaborations with other educational institutions. In 2023, this center held a one-day symposium that assessed the link between guns and patterns of domestic abuse. The college’s Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns has also held events that analyze guns in American society. Four college alumni have also worked with Everytown for Gun Safety to encourage lawmakers to pass common-sense gun laws. Cappex considers Wesleyan University to be one of the best colleges for advocacy and social activism. College Magazine names it the fourth-best college for activists. The Princeton Review considers the college to have the 11th most politically active students.
4. University of Washington
In 2023, the University of Washington announced that a new study it had published highlighted how interventions made earlier in people’s lives can reduce handgun carrying in young people. Also, in 2023, the college released a study that highlights how warm temperatures lead to an increase in gun violence. The college has also, in 2023, hosted gun lockbox giveaways in an attempt to reduce gun violence. In previous years, the college has worked with local governments to pass legislation that improved gun safety, such as a 2018 law that required gun owners to lock up their guns. Since 2019, much of the college’s gun safety work has come about thanks to the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program. Cappex considers the University of Washington to be one of the top colleges for advocacy and social activism. College Magazine ranks it as the third-best school for activists. University Business highlights how the college has worked with law enforcement to improve gun safety.
3. Columbia University
New York City, New York
The Scientific Union for the Reduction of Gun Violence at Columbia University has led various initiatives focused on gun crime. In 2022, this union co-organized and supported the three-day National Research Conference on Firearm Injury Prevention, which saw over 500 researchers attend. In 2021, the college gained a $2 million National Institutes of Health grant to study gun violence. Additionally, the Teachers College and the Center for Injury Science and Prevention both participate in gun violence reduction efforts. Cappex considers Columbia University to be one of the top colleges for advocacy and social activism. College Magazine names the college the fifth best for activists. Unigo names it the ninth most politically active school. The Princeton Review considers the college’s students to be the ninth most politically active.
2. University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
In 2023, a University of Southern California graduate student succeeded in gaining a $ 1 million grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to create a school-based gun violence-reduction program. Also, in 2023, the college’s Norman Lear Center debuted a resource that aimed to improve the representation of safe and responsible gun use in media. In 2022, the college polled 2,000 California voters, highlighting that the top education issue among these individuals was reducing gun violence in schools. This builds on the college’s previous polls, which indicated that 92% of California voters favored universal background checks. Inside Higher Ed notes that the college is part of a coalition of researchers that released an evidence-based plan for reducing gun violence in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting. Higher Ed Dive spoke with the college’s dean of the School of Education regarding gun safety on college campuses.
1. Temple University
A wide range of Temple University’s “faculty and staff study, raise awareness and work to prevent gun violence in Philadelphia.” Some efforts underway include the Task Force on Violence Reduction Strategies, youth discussions on public safety, papers focused on the connection between gun violence and drug markets, and more. In 2023, the college also succeeded in gaining $1.7 million to provide violence prevention programming to at-risk youth in Philadelphia. Earlier in 2023, the college also gained a $210,000 grant to explore the causes of gun violence in the Philadelphia region. However, the college community is not content with its current efforts and is actively working to implement further gun safety efforts. One example is the college’s president, who, in 2023, asked city, state, and federal law enforcement to provide additional assistance to the college to prevent gun violence. The college also runs the Temple Safety Net, which distributes gun locks free of charge. University Business notes that Temple University is working with local leaders to improve gun safety in the community. Inside Higher Ed also notes that the college takes a community-based approach to gun safety.
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