Study: After Sandy Hook Shooting, Gun Searches, Sales, Accidental Deaths Spiked

WASHINGTON — As Americans mourn and reflect on the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, a new study published last week finds that gun searches, sales, and accidental deaths increased significantly in the months following the horrific day. 

Researchers from Wellesley College started their inquiry by looking at Google search data spanning the years 2010 through 2014, finding that weekly searches for the terms “buy gun” and “clean gun” skyrocketed in the months following the infamous school shooting.

Handgun on display
A new study finds that gun searches, sales, and accidental deaths spiked significantly in the months following the Sandy Hook tragedy five years ago.

These two search terms saw yet increased search volume after then-President Barack Obama called for revamped gun control legislation.

More importantly, heightened search volume during this four-month window actually translated into four million additional firearm purchases when compared to a baseline period, the researchers found.

Another complementary dataset showed that accidental gun deaths increased by 27 percent over the same four months, with a 64 percent spike among children.

These findings demonstrate a fairly clear correlation between the Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy and an increase in accidental firearm injury, which may provide new insight into the societal impact of school shootings, the study’s authors argue. They point to data showing the jump in accidental gunshot wounds occurred most frequently in states where more gun purchases were made in the Sandy Hook aftermath.

“The fact that the spike in deaths is larger in states with the largest increase in gun sales reinforces the interpretation of a causal impact of the gun exposure,” says researcher Robin McKnight, who co-authored the study with Phillip Levine, in an American Association for the Advancement of Science news release. “The public health consequences are likely to be even greater than what we identified in our study because there are roughly 12 times as many non-fatal accidental firearm injuries among children as there are deaths.”

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Affiliated researchers noted how academic research on gun violence has recently been hampered by a lack of federal funding, although other stakeholders, such as private donors, have helped close the gap.

Analyzing gun policy can also be a tricky endeavor, they stressed, as influxes in crime can often be attributed to many non-legislative variables.

Still, a number of newer academic findings regarding gun legislation now find general or wide acceptance, including that “right-to-carry” (RTC) laws generally increase crime rates.

Other policy deterrents to violent behavior include increased sentencing and bans on gun possession.

Once again, one of the bigger issues with gun research remains whether findings are indeed casual in nature, which emphasizes the need for future studies to embrace more experimental methodologies.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Science.

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