Throughout the country, lawmakers at every level of government try to pontificate on gun control. They’ll tell you how we need universal background checks to end mass shootings. They’ll tell you the secret is really mental health treatment. They’ll tell you any number of things, and much of it is based on their own limited understanding of the issue.

That’s because there hasn’t really been an effort to try and understand mass shootings and mass shooters.

With all the political ramifications at work here, that’s hardly a surprise. Anti-gun lawmakers aren’t particularly interested in potential solutions that don’t include guns, for example. Pro-gun legislators look for somewhere else to focus and ended up with mental health, even though few of these shooters appear to have been diagnosed with any serious mental health disorders.

There’s just not a lot of information.

A new project in Minnesota seeks to correct this.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the nonpartisan Violence Project’s database went online Tuesday. The project’s researchers chronicled traits related to 171 people who committed mass shootings.

Violence Project co-founder James Densley says researchers looked at factors in the lives of shooters. Those aspects include mental health troubles, whether they considered suicide, and how they had access to guns.

Now, I’m not crazy about them including how they had access to guns because it smacks of looking for gun control, but even that could well be useful. After all, what good is it to restrict gun purchases if shooters are stealing guns from family members? How much good are waiting periods if the shooters are buying guns a month or more in advance?

Even that could be useful information.

More importantly, though, this study will hopefully look at enough data points that we can start to understand what kind of person becomes a shooter so as to better intervene before it’s too late.

The definition that will be used is important, though. After all, we already have groups claiming there are hundreds of mass shootings so far this year simply because of their skewed definition. Violence Project, however, will be looking at shootings where four or more people are killed at a public venue. So, that will disqualify the recent murders in San Diego, but also Santa Clarita.

Honestly, that’s pretty fair. While Santa Clarita probably fits the profile overall, that definition keeps out most things like gang shootings and such.

Frankly, I’m glad to see it. With luck, we’ll be able to get some useful data from the project very soon and be able to have a meaningful discussion. That will depend on unbiased research, though. My hope is that the researchers are going into this with open minds, as they should, and aren’t looking for justification. Far too much research these days isn’t conducted in an unbiased way, and that’s a problem.

To be sure, though, whatever they find is likely to be attacked. If it finds gun control is useless, anti-gunners will try to debunk the research. If all they “find” is a need for gun control, then we’ll argue the research is biased and thus useless ourselves. We’ll have to see what they come up with, but I’m hopeful they’ll do the job that we need done.