A time-series analysis of firearm purchasing following mass shooting events in the United States

Liu, G., & Wiebe, D. J. (2019). A time-series analysis of firearm purchasing after mass shooting events in the United States. JAMA network open2(4), e191736-e191736.


Importance: Increased understanding of public response to mass shootings could guide public health planning regarding firearms.

Objectives: To test the hypothesis that mass shootings are associated with gun purchasing in the United States and to determine factors associated with gun purchasing changes.

Design and setting: In a cross-sectional study, monthly data on US background checks for all firearm purchases, handgun permits, and long gun permits between November 1, 1998, and April 30, 2016, were obtained from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. All mass shootings resulting in 5 or more individuals injured or killed during the study period were also identified. Interrupted autoregressive integrated moving average time-series modeling was used to identify events associated with changes in gun purchase volume. Then, logistic regression was used to identify event characteristics associated with changes in gun purchases. Analyses were performed between June 6, 2016, and February 5, 2019.

Exposures: For the time-series analysis, each mass shooting was modeled as an exposure. In the logistic regression, examined factors were the shooter’s race/ethnicity, the region in the United States in which a shooting occurred, whether a shooting was school related, fatalities, handgun use, long gun use, automatic or semiautomatic gun use, media coverage level, and state political affiliation.

Main outcomes and measures: Identification of major mass shootings significantly associated with changes in gun purchases, and the identification of event-specific factors associated with changes in gun purchases.

Results: Between November 1998 and April 2016, 124 major mass shootings and 233 996 385 total background checks occurred. A total of 26 shootings (21.0%) were associated with increases in gun purchases and 22 shootings (17.7%) were associated with decreases in gun purchasing. Shootings receiving extensive media coverage were associated with handgun purchase increases (odds ratio, 5.28; 95% CI, 1.30-21.41; P = .02). Higher-fatality shootings had an inverse association with handgun purchase decreases (odds ratio, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.53-1.00; P = .049).

Conclusions and relevance: The findings of this study suggest an association between mass shootings and changes in gun purchases, observed on a comprehensive timescale. Identification of media coverage and fatalities as significant factors underlying this association invites further study into the mechanisms driving gun purchase changes, holding implications for public health response to future gun violence.