Increase in accidental deaths follows spike in gun sales, study finds

Increase in accidental deaths follows spike in gun sales, study finds

McKnight estimates that 3 million additional guns were sold in the four months following Sandy Hook, above the sales that normally would have taken place during that timeframe.

Gun sales in the United States can increase after mass shootings. The authors found no corresponding increase in the number of gun homicides or suicides during the post-Sandy Hook shooting window, a finding that lines up with previous studies.

There was a fourfold increase in accidental gun deaths involving children in states that had the largest gun sales increases following Sandy Hook, compared with states that had modest sales increases, the findings showed. They then compared that number to two databases of deaths nationwide, which showed a 27 percent increase in accidental gun deaths for all ages and a 64 percent increase among children during that period. "It's surprising that such a small increase in the overall gun stock could have such a large effect on one category, accidental deaths, and yet no effect on other categories", he said.

For more on gun violence, visit the U.S.

Levine said that he and McKnight chose to do the study after seeing data in an article in The New York Times that showed a dramatic surge in gun purchases after Sandy Hook and again after 14 people were gunned down on 2 December 2015 at a public health department Christmas party in San Bernardino, California. They have grappled with what conditions would best determine the factors - gun sales, different state laws, the type of guns available - that might affect gun violence and death.

The researchers attribute numerous deaths to improper or inadequate gun storage.

The safest way to enact tougher gun control in America might be to move fast when the time is right, McKnight said.

The findings were published December 8 in the journal Science.

Decades of USA national data show a steady downward trend in accidental firearm deaths-from 1.55 per 100,000 people in 1948 to 0.18 per 100,000 in 2014. There's little evidence of an increase in murders after shootings, but it makes sense to assume that more guns could lead to more murders or gun-involved domestic violence in the long run. "The difference between 0 and 1 is enormous". Because the authors are limited by the lack of reliable data on USA gun ownership, she says, "they do something smart". "The talking point is going to be: If you have X more exposure to guns, you have Y more accidents", he says.

The call for gun control backfired.

"It's a serious and provocative study, but it's important to keep in mind that in the grand scheme of things, accidental deaths are relatively rare", said David M. Studdert, a professor at Stanford Law School.

This increase in exposure to firearms - people bringing new guns into their homes or cleaning the guns they already owned - appeared to have increased people's risk of getting shot and killed, the researchers found. "The real issue is not the number of guns, but the number of guns that are stored improperly", she wrote in an email.

Researchers have also looked at the impacts of the Lautenberg Amendment to the 1968 Gun Control Act, which disqualified people with a conviction for domestic violence from buying or owning weapons.

Google searches using the terms "buy gun" - including phrases like "where can I buy a gun?" - and "clean gun", meaning "how often should I clean my gun?" also spiked after Sandy Hook, and that was especially trueon the days Obama talked about gun control.

GunSense Vermont is a coalition of concerned citizens - gun owners, non-gun owners, Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, Independents, and more - working to take steps to reduce gun violence.

Levine and McKnight used the number of background checks reported to the government by federally licensed gun dealers as a proxy for gun sales. "Right after President Obama made his gun speech, search terms like "buy a gun" immediately went up".

Finally, they broke the national data down state-by-state to check that the relationship between mass shootings, gun purchases, and gun deaths wasn't coincidental. But because so many other factors influence gun violence, it's extremely hard to sort out any trend, says Levine.

"Those deaths jumped exactly at the same time as gun sales spiked, McKnight said, "and even more so in the states where the spike in gun sales was bigger".

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