Sales of handguns in California soared after two of the highest-profile mass shootings in the United States, a new study reveals.
“For some, a gruesome mass shooting may induce repulsion at the idea of owning a weapon,” wrote study author David Studdert and colleagues at Stanford University. “For others, it may motivate acquisition.”
In the six weeks after 20 children and six adults were killed in the 2012 Newtown, Conn., school massacre, handgun sales in California rose 53 percent over expected levels.
And handgun sales spiked even more sharply three years later after 14 people were fatally shot in California’s San Bernardino County, the study authors said.
In the six weeks after the San Bernardino holiday-party slaughter, handgun sales were 85 percent higher than expected among residents of the city and surrounding areas. They were 35 percent higher elsewhere in California, the findings showed.
“Mass shootings are likely to boost sales if they heighten concerns over personal security, because self-protection is the most commonly cited reason for owning a firearm,” Studdert’s team said. He is a professor of medicine and of law at Stanford.
The findings have implications for public health because gun ownership is a risk factor for gun-related homicide and suicide, the study authors said.
Overall, the jumps in handgun sales after the two mass shootings were short-lived and accounted for less than 10 percent of annual handgun sales in California, the researchers noted.
“Concerns about firearm violence and the public health risks of firearm ownership should stay focused on the much larger volume of weapons that routinely changes hands, and the immense stock that already sits in households,” the investigators wrote.
“On the other hand, the cumulative effect of such ‘shocks’ as the Newtown and San Bernardino shootings on firearm prevalence may be substantial,” the study authors added. “Moreover, firearm acquisitions seem to be sensitive to a range of other events that are also common, such as federal elections, new firearm safety laws and terrorist attacks.”
Each year, more than 32,000 people die of gunshot wounds in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study was published May 1 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The American Psychological Association has a report on gun violence prevention.