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3 million more guns than usual were sold in wake of Sandy Hook shooting: Report

Five years after Sandy Hook, researchers have identified that gun sales and accidental gun deaths increased in the months after the tragedy.
sandy hook, sandy hook 5 year anniversary
On Dec. 14, 2012, a shooter killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Photo: Reuters

The Sandy Hook school shooting, like many other mass shootings in America, sparked a nationwide debate about gun control.

It also led to a jump in gun sales and accidental gun deaths, according to a new report.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

Now, five years later, Wellesley College professors Phillip Levine and Robin McKnight have published a study on the spike in gun sales after that shooting.

In the wake of the tragedy, the number of guns purchased in America increased by 3 million, compared with baseline levels, according to the professors’ research.

That increase in guns led to at least 57 additional firearm-related deaths, the researchers said, 18 of which were among children.

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

McKnight and Levine embarked on their study to understand how the Sandy Hook tragedy and the resulting gun debate affected the American public’s behavior surrounding guns.

For their research, the two professors analyzed Google data between 2010 and 2014 and found that the amount of searches that included the phrases “buy gun” and “clean gun” jumped up significantly in the four months after Sandy Hook. Actual gun sales increased by 3 million.

The topic of guns was present in the news cycle, with President Barack Obama announcing new gun control action on Jan. 2013 and speaking again about the proposed legislation at the State of the Union address that February.

“Search activity related to buying and cleaning guns spiked immediately after each of these events,” the researchers wrote in their study, published Thursday in the journal Science.

On April 17, 2013, the Senate voted down those measures to expand gun control, “at which point this search activity ebbed and returned to pre-Sandy Hook levels,” the researchers said.

McKnight and Levine also looked at national- and state-level mortality data to see if the increase in gun searches and sales correlated to any accidental gun deaths.

In the same time period that searches jumped, accidental firearm-related deaths increased 27 percent overall and by 64 percent among children.

The researchers wrote that their analysis “provides evidence indicating that the spike in gun exposure that followed the Sandy Hook school shooting increased the incidence of accidental firearm deaths.” They also attribute thoses deaths, in part, to improper gun storage.

“If guns were stored properly at all times, we would not observe this result,” Levine said in a statement. “It suggests that we should be concerned about how guns are stored in homes and consider legislation to improve it.”

 
 
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