A little known fact about mass shootings is that they have been very good for the arms business. The anxieties of Americans are fueled by both the random violence itself and the subsequent debates on gun control. Clients, including some who have never had a weapon, compete to buy weapons that they fear may be denied in the future. And arms sales soar.
But the aftermath of a mass shooting does not seem very good for the safety of Americans. New research suggests that the increased availability of firearms after a mass shooting takes a deadly price.
That figure falls heavily on children, according to the study, which links the increase in arms sales after a mass shooting with an increase in fatal accidents involving firearms.
To reach that conclusion, investigators focused on the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, which claimed the lives of 20 school-age children and six adults. at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In addition to the expected number of weapons sold in a typical period of five months, the study authors found that about 3 million additional pistols were sold after the Sandy Hook shootings. And beyond the expected number of deaths by accidental firearm in the United States, they estimated that at least 57 more fatal firearm accidents occurred, and up to 66. Somewhere between 17 and 22 of those accidental deaths were removed the life of a child.
The analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, is the latest in a series of studies analyzing the impact of firearms on public health.
"This is part of this flowering in weapons research," said Duke University Professor Emeritus Philip J. Cook, a pioneer in the field of firearms injury investigation who was not involved in the investigation. new study
The increase in gun sales and accidental shooting is not straightforward. But research strongly suggests that the behavior of gun owners and gun buyers following the Sandy Hook shooting contributed to an increase in deaths from accidental weapons.
The study's authors – health economists at Wellesley College and the National Bureau of Economic Research in Massachusetts: used several measures to measure the largest "weapon exposure" of Americans following Sandy Hook.
They saw an increase in alleged arms sales, obtained from an increase in background checks required for most sales. They also recorded increases in Google searches on gun purchases and gun cleaning. That is evidence, they suggest, that gun owners were taking out existing weapons and that owners of established and potential weapons were preparing to bring a new firearm into the home.
Touring a federal database of deaths registered in the United States, investigators found "evidence of an increase in accidental firearm deaths to children at exactly the time of the increase in arms sales after Sandy Hook. "
The hit in accidental deaths did not seem like a random error: the researchers could not find jumps of similar magnitude in any of the other time periods they sought. Additional confirmation came from its statistical projections of the relationship between the number of weapons in the US. UU And accidents with fatal firearms, which were an almost perfect combination for the actual number of deaths.
Other information further strengthened the argument that increased Exposure to the gun fueled fatal firearm accidents: when investigators assigned increases in deaths from recorded accidental weapons, they found them concentrated in states where the post-Sandy Hook spike in Arms sales were very high.
"This is the pattern we would expect to see if those who buy weapons (and perhaps those who remove weapons from storage) are more likely to succumb to accidents until those weapons are stored in a safer environment," they wrote. the authors, Phillip B. Levine and Robin McKnight.
Levine and McKnight added that the findings support the passage and enforcement of safe gun storage laws and underscore the value of having doctors advise their patients on ways to reduce fire. rms injury
Stephen Teret, who directs the Center for Law and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, called the new study "a methodological tour of strength."
But Teret, a pioneer in investigating gunshot injuries, said investigators "The suggestion that best weapons storage practices would reduce such injuries" represents a diversion of their data. "
" There is still no Reliable evidence that efforts to educate people to store weapons more safely end up reducing gun deaths. "Teret said," And there are better ways to reduce gun deaths than telling people to be more careful. That includes changing the design of these weapons so that children can not operate them. "
The results of the study expand the research that has found consistently higher rates of firearm deaths, including suicide, homicide and accidents, among those they live in homes with firearms or have quick access to a weapon.The highest rates of possession of weapons in different states and countries have also been strongly related to a higher incidence of firearm-related injuries and deaths.  The new findings fit perfectly with research published in October that shows that, in the following weeks Las Vegas, deaths from firearms and injuries in nearby cities in California increased by 70%.
And they fit with a study published in May, which was the first to rigorously measure the increase in arms sales after mass shootings. Internal Medicine, that study found a 53% increase in arms sales in California in the six weeks after the Sandy Hook shootings and a 41% increase over normal state sales levels in the six weeks after San San California data drawn from that study suggested that 59% of California's additional gun purchases after Sandy Hook were made by gun buyers for the first time.
By linking increased exposure to firearms increased rates of accidental deaths from firearms, the authors of the new study in Science are making an early effort to entwine the disparate strands of recent research. Their findings offer evidence, albeit indirect, that fatal accidents are more common when first-time owners bring a weapon home, as well as when gun owners take out their guns to clean, check or make room for a new purchase. They also suggest that this type of "shake" of firearms takes place more often in the wake of mass shootings.
"The idea that this shock to the system added to arms sales is certainly plausible and seems to be the beginning of a causal story," said Cook, who has studied the economics of guns and crime for decades.
It is difficult to link two data streams, about the availability of weapons and the behavior of gun owners, and to draw firm conclusions about how and why firearms "I love the spirit of this article, which was to treat to solve that problem, "Cook said.
And there may be more to come, he added.
After 1996, when a law prohibits the use of some federal funds for research into firearms, a field of study that was once vibrant was virtually inactive, he said. Now, driven by an increase in private funds, public concerns and academic interest, Cook predicted that "more high-level researchers will address this area of research."
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