After each of two deadly shootings, Californians responded by buying guns — lots of them.
Even in the liberal land of Hollywood celebrities and oxygen bars, mass shootings scare people and remind them that in America, citizens always have the right to protect themselves.
David M. Studdert, a professor at Stanford University, led a study with Yifan Zhang, Jonathan A. Rodden, Rob J. Hyndman, and Garen J. Wintemute. The analysis of data is titled “Handgun Acquisitions in California After Two Mass Shootings,” and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The report, found here, contains a lot of data and a lot of analysis (not to mention a lot of jargon). The report analyzes gun purchases after two high-profile shootings that garnered a blitz of media coverage: the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.
The report says: “In the 6 weeks after the Newtown and San Bernardino shootings, there were 25 705 (95% prediction interval, 17 411 to 32 788) and 27 413 (prediction interval, 15 188 to 37 734) excess acquisitions, respectively, representing increases of 53% (95% CI, 30% to 80%) and 41% (CI, 19% to 68%) over expected volume. Large increases in acquisitions occurred among white and Hispanic persons, but not among black persons, and among persons with no record of having previously acquired a handgun. After the San Bernardino shootings, acquisition rates increased by 85% among residents of that city and adjacent neighborhoods, compared with 35% elsewhere in California.”
What that means in layman’s terms is that gun sales in California rose by 53 percent during the six weeks after the Newtown shooting, which left 26 dead, including 20 children. Sales increased by 35 percent across the state after the San Bernardino terrorist shootings, which left 14 dead and 22 wounded. In the city itself, gun sales rose 85 percent.
California has among the strictest gun laws in the country. But the Second Amendment still allows law-abiding citizens to purchase guns for their own protection, and many took the opportunity to do just that after the two shootings.
“It’s quite a remarkable response,” Studdert told KPBS, a public broadcasting network in San Diego.
Studdert said this phenomenon has been widely recognized for awhile, but he and his colleagues wanted a more detailed understanding of these spikes and who was driving them.
Certain demographic groups become more likely to buy guns, Studdert said. “Women proportionally increase to a larger extent. We see a larger response among first gun buyers. And we see a larger response among whites and Hispanics.”
Studdert said the findings are significant, but, like a good Californian, added that Americans purchasing guns can be dangerous.
“When we see shocks that stimulate gun purchasing like this, it causes concern that there may be a feedback loop,” Studdert told KPBS. “With additional gun purchases come additional concerns about security, and that prompts more people to buy weapons, and so on.”