WASHINGTON — In the days following events like the tragic shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas -- as families are left to mourn their loved ones taken too soon --- the rest of the country is left to wonder: What’s next? While action in Washington is to be determined, so is action in gun stores.
We want to verify: Do mass shootings – defined here as 5 or more people injured or killed – lead to a spike in gun sales?
No, not all mass shootings correlate directly with an increase in gun sales.
WHAT WE FOUND
Days after mass shootings are marked by memorial services, investigations, and, according to a common claim, a spike in gun sales.
To find out if that's true, we checked in with Jurgen Brauer, the co-founder and chief economist at Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting, a research firm that focuses on firearms; and looked at two studies: one from 2017, another from 2019.
“The answer is it depends very much on which kind of mass shooting it is,” said Brauer. “Not all mass shootings are equal in their secondary effects.”
By secondary effects, he means how the media, lawmakers and the public react to a tragedy.
Studies show that a spike in gun purchases or background checks doesn’t always happen.
This 2019 Journal of the American Medical Association network study found that from 1998 to 2016, of 124 major mass shootings, 21% were associated with increased gun purchases, but 17% were actually associated with decreases.
“The shooting in Las Vegas a few years ago at a big music festival, or the shooting at the Orlando Florida nightclub,” Brauer said. “Those have not led to a really statistically noticeable increase in firearms demand and sales.”
However Brauer says experts believe the mass shootings involving young children seem to have the most association with increased gun sales.
A 2017 Annals of Internal Medicine study found that in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 3 million more firearms were purchased than in typical years.
“When you have a school shooting, the outrage is more popular than otherwise and more widespread than otherwise,” said Brauer. "Therefore you get more calls for firearms legislation. And then you have the reaction, that in response to those calls, and the fear that potentially new federal legislation may be passed, that then turns on the demand spike."
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