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Social sciences/Political science/Legal system/Criminal law

The characteristics of gun violence, risk and protective factors, prevention, gun safety technology, and the influence of video games were identified as key research priorities by a committee of the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, chaired by AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner.

“The complexity and frequency of gun-related violence combined with its impact on the health and safety of the nation’s residents make it a topic of considerable public health importance,” Leshner said.

Despite an explosion of research on the use of brain scans and other tools of science to help better determine a person’s guilt or innocence, experts at a AAAS-organized discussion said hopes that neuroscience might transform the legal system are unrealistic for now.

A decade after anthrax sent by mail left five dead and put America on edge, questions continue to be raised about the adequacy of the science used to identify a suspect and on the ability to prevent such bioterrorism, specialists said at a AAAS retrospective on the attacks.

Agencies and institutions must take steps to enhance the screening of those who work with dangerous pathogens, they said, while also assuring the public that the criminal justice process, in the event of any future attacks, will work and work well.