Sandy Hook shooting aftermath: Increased gun sales, more accidental deaths by firearms

Charlotte vigil and others to mark Sandy Hook tragedy

Charlotte vigil and others to mark Sandy Hook tragedy

What they did: The researchers calculated the average rate of accidental firearm deaths for adults and children in the United States from 2008-2015, and measured deviations from that rate.

The shooting at Sandy Hook, which will be remembered next week (December 14), on its fifth anniversary, claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adults.

Neither of the two statisticians who conducted the research - Phillip Levine and Robin McKnight - had worked on gun violence before. They looked at Google data between 2010 and 2014, finding that weekly search volumes for the terms "buy gun" and "clean gun" surged in the four months following the shooting, and particularly following two occasions when President Obama was vocal about the need for new gun control legislation.

"What we know in general is that there are about 12 times as many nonfatal firearm accidents as there are fatal gun accidents", McKnight said. 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. "The public health consequences of the increase in gun sales are probably larger than what we found in our paper". Spikes in accidental firearm-related deaths were concentrated in those states with larger increases in per capita gun sales, the authors found.

"What's nice about Google data is that you can see specific cause and effect like this", Levine said. "Suicides and homicides, that's the main game that researchers are trying to figure out when it comes to the causal relationships between guns and mortality".

There's evidence that people also dug through closets and gun safes for weapons they already owned, McKnight said. The overall numbers, of course, obviously pointed out the fact that the country with the most guns in the entire world also had the most gun-related deaths, but there hadn't been a study on this particular phenomenon until now.

The event is part of a nationwide tribute in partnership with the Newtown Foundation, Newtown Action Alliance, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown Survivor Network and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, Organizing for Action, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, St Marks Episcopal Church, and Women's March. Although the CDC largely withdrew from funding research on gun violence more than 20 years ago (under intense congressional pressure), there are active research programs in medicine, public health, law, and the social sciences under way in universities and think tanks.

A Catch-22: There are proven ways to reduce gun violence, notes economist and sociologist Philip Cook in policy piece that ran with the study. "The longer you discuss it, the higher the cost".

"I think there are a mix of things going on there", said David Studdert, a professor of medicine and law at Stanford Law School. "They feel unnerved by what has happened". It's nearly like, no matter how many times that point gets definitively proven, Americans continue to buy guns with no regard for the consequences of this act.

HealthDay asked the National Rifle Association to comment on the new study, but received no reply. But instead of offering protection, at least in some cases, the sales increased the chances that people would be accidentally shot and killed, according to a study published Thursday in Science magazine. For decades, hamstrung by lack of funding and the politically charged landscape surrounding gun control, researchers have lacked data to try to answer that question. National Institute of Justice.