Handgun acquisitions in California after two mass shootings

David M Studdert, Yifan Zhang, Jonathan A Rodden, Rob J Hyndman, Garen J Wintemute
(2017) Annals of Internal Medicine, 166(10), 698-706

DOI

Background

Mass shootings are common in the United States. They are the most visible form of firearm violence. Their effect on personal decisions to purchase firearms is not well understood.

Objective

To determine changes in handgun acquisition patterns after the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 and San Bernardino, California, in 2015.

Design

Time-series analysis using seasonal autoregressive integrated moving-average (SARIMA) models.

Setting

California.

Population

Adults who acquired handguns between 2007 and 2016.

Measurements

Excess handgun acquisitions (defined as the difference between actual and expected acquisitions) in the 6-week and 12-week periods after each shooting, overall and within subgroups of acquirers.

Results

In the 6 weeks after the Newtown and San Bernardino shootings, there were 25 705 (95% prediction interval, 17 411 to 32 788) and 27 413 (prediction interval, 15 188 to 37 734) excess acquisitions, respectively, representing increases of 53% (95% CI, 30% to 80%) and 41% (CI, 19% to 68%) over expected volume. Large increases in acquisitions occurred among white and Hispanic persons, but not among black persons, and among persons with no record of having previously acquired a handgun. After the San Bernardino shootings, acquisition rates increased by 85% among residents of that city and adjacent neighborhoods, compared with 35% elsewhere in California.

Limitations

The data relate to handguns in 1 state. The statistical analysis cannot establish causality.

Conclusion

Large increases in handgun acquisitions occurred after these 2 mass shootings. The spikes were short-lived and accounted for less than 10% of annual handgun acquisitions statewide. Further research should examine whether repeated shocks of this kind lead to substantial increases in the prevalence of firearm ownership.


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An associated editorial is also available under the same terms.