A new report found that gun purchases and accidents
Gun deaths increased significantly after Sandy Hook
The study is part of a larger body of recent research
that is shedding light on armed violence, according to
Although it is difficult to study deaths by firearms, researchers
have a good idea about which policies have an impact on
rates of violence.
On December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old man made his way to Sandy
Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, and opened fire.
He killed 20 children (six and seven years old) and six adults.
After the shooting, legislation is requested to
limiting access to firearms resulted in what has now become a
Predictable event after the massacre: people bought many firearms.
With more weapons in the coming months, the rates of
accidental death related to firearms rose sharply, especially for
children, according to a new study
published in the journal Science.
Study authors Phillip Levine and Robin McKnight of Wellesley
compared the number of accidental deaths of firearms during the five
months after Sandy Hook (December 2012 to April 2013) with
the amount during the same period of time in other years between
2008 and 2015. They discovered that after Sandy Hook, accidental
death rates from firearms increased by 27% overall, and by 64% for children up to
the age of 14.
That means that at least 60 people died by mistake as a result
of those arms purchases: 40 adults and 20 children.
In the five months after the mass shooting, approximately 3
Millions of guns were sold more than would have been expected based
in historical trends. Online searches for terms like "buy weapon"
and "clean weapon" also shot up (especially after President Obama
spoke publicly about gun control).
The more people are exposed to guns because they are new
purchased or because they have been taken out of storage, the
Accidental shootings are more likely to occur.
Looking at the status data, Levine and McKnight found that the
states with the biggest spikes in arms sales also saw the highest
spikes in accidental death rates.
Schaffer / AAAS
Understanding deaths by firearms
There are limitations to perform a study like this, the
The authors wrote, since the CDC's Vital Statistics data used to
calculating deaths by firearm is known to minimize the accidental firearm
deaths, especially when an accidental injury later results in
But there are other serious limitations to studying deaths by firearms
as well. The lobby of the National Rifle Association has influenced
Congress to avoid research funding that could justify a heavier weapon
That means there's no national database of arms purchases, so it's
hard to say how many weapons are sold. In this case, the
the researchers calculated the 3 million sales based on the amount of
background checks through the National Instant Criminal
Background check system, which is used by a gun with a federal license
NRA lobbying also led Congress to cut the CDC budget by $ 2.6
million – the same amount as the weapon budget of the centers
research program on violence, as pointed out by Philip Cook and John Donohue
in a public
Policy analysis published together with the new study in Science.
But Cook and Donohue wrote that the investigation into deaths by firearms is
improve despite these obstacles and the lack of federal funds,
thanks to the support of non-profit foundations, states like
California and universities.
"The good news, often lost in well-justified complaints about
the lack of federal funds, deserves more recognition, "they
What science says about gun policy
Innovative researchers, an increase in the interest of journals, and
the support of institutions other than the federal government are
all helping researchers understand how the policies affect the weapon
violence, according to Cook and Donohue.
For example, researchers have learned that the rates of gun theft have
decreased when states enact longer sentences for assault or
robbery with a gun.
Researchers have also analyzed the impacts of Lautenberg
Amendment to the Arms Control Act of 1968, which disqualified people
with a conviction for domestic violence for buying or owning
weapons. The policy was challenged in certain states, but the data
shows the states that banned domestic abusers from owning guns
reduction of weapon killings by 17%.
Analyzes were also carried out on the "right to carry" laws, which
requires states to issue concealed carry permits to anyone who is
allowed to possess weapons and can meet the minimum conditions (unlike
to keep the transport status hidden to more stringent standards).
According to Cook and Donohue, such laws increase the rate of
firearm homicides by 9% when state-by-state homicide rates are
Many people have argued that right-of-way laws deter crime,
since there are more armed people to stop a
criminal. That idea was supported by a controversial 1997
analysis, but these newer and more comprehensive analyzes show
opposite effect. That could be because the confrontations are more
is likely to escalate to a shooting, because there are more firearms
Around that can be stolen, or some other factor.
But considering the
House recently approved a bill that would allow people
carry weapons across state lines and demand that states honor
covert policies of other states, research on
The impact of such policies is more important than ever.
"The scope and quality of research related to firearms is growing, with
clear implications for the political debate, "Cook and Donohue
In the wake of a mass shooting like Sandy Hook and more recently
Las Vegas, it is imperative to discover what policy changes can
help save lives