The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (Ed Fund) was founded as The Educational Fund To End Handgun Violence in 1974 as a sister organization of the National Coalition To Ban Handguns (later to become Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.)
The Ed Fund was founded to provide research and education on the causes and effects of gun violence in America. This included authoring and analyzing scientific studies, government statistics, social science research, and other data as well as providing educational tools for concerned citizens, activists, students and the media.
In 1980, Samuel Fields, a former DC public school teacher, became Executive Director of the Ed Fund. A year later, the organization launched the Firearms Litigation Clearinghouse.
The Clearinghouse provided victims and their attorneys instant access to the most comprehensive library of firearms litigation material in America. The computer database system offers information on case law, depositions, patents, government tests, industry warnings and recalls. It has been instrumental in developing and advocating new legal theories designed to hold gun manufacturers accountable for firearms violence. Also in 1981, the Ed Fund conducted an educational project for city council members and state legislators to explore the various legal options available for controlling gun violence. The project produced and distributed model local legislation based on the experience of the City Council of the Village of Morton Grove, IL.
In 1987, Marjolijn Bijlefeld became Executive Director. Prior to coming to the Ed Fund, Ms. Bijlefeld had been a reporter at the national newspaper USA Today. That year, the Fund in conjunction with the American Youth Work Center published the groundbreaking study, Kids and Guns; A Child Safety Scandal. Congressman George Miller (D-CA), Chair of the House
Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, hailed the report as “an important public service,documenting the extent of a serious problem affecting youth and providing a list of recommendations and possible solutions. This report should be required reading, not only in Washington, but in homes and communities throughout the country.”
In 1988, the Ed Fund and New Right Watch published the groundbreaking report Assault Weapons and Accessories In America. The report quickly became a major resource in the growing national debate over the manufacture, sale and possession of para-military style assault weapons that culminated in the passage of the 1994 Crime Bill which prohibits the manufacture of semiautomatic assault weapons and ammunition magazines which hold more than 10 rounds.
In 1989, the Fund and the American Youth Work Center published a Second Edition of Kids and Guns: A Child Safety Scandal. Representative Constance A. Morella (R-MD) wrote “I am grateful that the Educational Fund has taken another look at this picture… The recommendations in this journal deserve serious attention, and I strongly urge all parents, teachers, school administrators, community leaders and pediatricians to read this report.”
In 1991, Joshua M. Horwitz, Esq. became Executive Director of the Ed Fund — a position he continues to hold. In 1993, the Fund produced and distributed a series of television public service announcements stressing the role that individuals — especially youth — can play in reducing gun violence. In 1994, the Ed Fund, in conjunction with the national television series The Crusaders and the Sir Speedy company produced and distributed the nation’s first Grassroots Manual for Citizen Activists to help individuals start anti-gun violence organizations in their community.
The Fund convened the first-ever Citizens Conference to Stop Gun Violence to educate, train and involve grassroots citizen activists across the nation. This annual conference has continued to grow in size and importance each succeeding year. A Community Litigation Project was established to train community activists and victims to identify liability suits against gun manufacturers and sellers, and to develop well-trained local attorneys to litigate these cases.
In 1995, the Fund launched a major youth anti-violence program Hands Without Guns. This was a major public health and education campaign that works to engage young people as violence prevention advocates in their communities. Also that year, the Fund began publishing Stop Gun Violence News, a bi-monthly publication that keeps citizens abreast of the latest developments in the struggle to reduce gun violence. SGN provides a clearinghouse of information, advice, and ideas for helping citizens make a greater impact in their local communities. That same year, the Ed Fund created the Ceasefire Action Network (CAN) to provide a clearinghouse of information, advice and ideas for helping citizens make a greater impact in their local communities.
In 1999, the Ed Fund assisted trial attorneys in the ground-breaking legal case Hamilton v. Accu-tek. In this case for the first time, a jury found gun manufacturers negligent in their marketing and distribution systems and awarded financial compensation to plaintiffs. Several other cities filed suit against the gun industry.
Post Columbine: 2000s
Following the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and the Million Mom March for Gun Control in Washington, DC — the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence firmly established itself as public health think tank and vital resource for gun violence prevention data in the new century. It started with a name change as the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence formally formally became the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence in 2001.
In 2002, the Ed Fund published the report Closing Illegal Gun Markets: Extending Criminal Background Checks To All Gun Sales laying the blueprint for the issue that would serve as a pillar of gun violence prevention policies for the next two decades. The organization narrowed the focus of this report for the state based report for Virginia the following year titled Closing Illegal Gun Markets: Virginia’s Gun Show Loophole and following it up with 2003’s report Virginia’s Gun Show Loophole. The Ed Fund also called for an effective licensing system to prevent unqualified applicants from obtaining handguns in Licensing Access to Handguns.
In 2003, the Ed Fund continued its groundbreaking “Closing Illegal Gun Markets” series with the publication of the report Killing Machines: The Case for Banning Assault Weapons one year before the Assault Weapons Ban was being brought up for reauthorization and was allowed to expire by Congress.
The Ed Fund continued the series by highlighting the organization’s new innovative life-saving policy “microstamping” in the 2004 report Cracking The Case: The Crime-Solving Promise of Ballistic Identification. Ballistic identification is the science of using a ballistic fingerprint to identify the specific firearm used in a shooting. A comprehensive ballistic identification system would connect a bullet or cartridge case recovered at a crime scene directly to the make, model and serial number of the gun from which it was fired. “Microstamping” made comprehensive ballistic identification a reality. Three years following the report, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California signed the first microstamping bill in the nation into law. The Ed Fund followed up after the passage of the new law by publishing the report Microstamping Technology: Precise and Proven in 2008.
In 2007, the Ed Fund focused its efforts on addressing what had been known for years as the “gun show loophole.” The organization published America’s Gun Shows: Open Market for Criminals to examine the extent of criminal activity at gun shows and other types of events. They also focused on fact checking certain pro-gun talking points by publishing reports like Debunking A Myth: The Gun Lobby’s Claim That Less Than 1% of Crime Guns Come From Gun Shows.
The Modern Era: 2010s
In 2013, the Ed Fund exposed the unprecedented legal protections that a conservative congress and administration provided the gun lobby in the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) in the report Justice Denied: The Case Against Gun Industry Immunity.
Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Josh Horwitz wanted to use the Ed Fund and their contacts in gun violence prevention and academia to examine the link between mental illness and violent behavior. Josh and the staff pulled together the experts, researchers, academics, activists and many of the sharpest minds in gun violence prevention to found the “Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy.” Through the Educational Fund, the Consortium published its first two reports Guns, Public Health, and Mental Illness: An Evidence-Based Approach For Federal Policy and Guns, Public Health, and Mental Illness: An Evidence-Based Approach For State Policy in December 2013 — nearly a year following the shooting in Connecticut. The two reports laid out recommendations and guidelines for policies that should be passed and implemented at the federal and state levels to reduce gun violence. Once such policy — the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) — has been passed in 15 states and the District of Columbia since the reports were published.
Also in 2013, the Educational Fund continued their work in the Commonwealth of Virginia with the project “Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws” which sought to change the dynamics of the gun debate in that state. One of the organizers for Virginia — Kayla Hicks — would eventually become Director of African-American and Community Outreach for the Educational Fund and develop programs for impacted communities to address gun violence like “Education to Action” and the “Virginia Action Network.” Education to Action workshops began in the Hampton Road area of Virginia in 2014 and expand to Seattle, Washington and Nashville, Tennessee in 2018 and 2019.
Since 2013, the Educational Fund has been instrumental in the development, passage, and implementation of ERPO laws across the country and through their Speak for Safety program they have provided data and resources for the ERPO laws in California and Illinois.
The think tank added new emphasis to the often overlooked areas of gun violence like suicide and domestic violence with the publishing of vital reports Breaking Through Barriers: The Emerging Role of Healthcare Provider Training Programs in Suicide Prevention and the Consortium/Prosecutors Against Gun Violence collaboration Firearms Removal/Retrieval In Cases Of Domestic Violence. In 2017, the Ed Fund partnered with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to create the innovative and interactive website focused on Domestic Violence and Firearms — DisarmDV.org.
The Educational Fund is continuing to research, develop, and advance gun violence prevention through evidence-based research and policies. Our dedicated staff of public health professionals and experts continue to find innovative and creative solutions to address the epidemic of American gun violence.