The impact of spikes in handgun acquisitions on firearm-related harms

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Abstract

Background: Research has documented sharp and short-lived increases in firearm acquisitions immediately following high-profile mass shootings and specific elections, increasing exposure to firearms at the community level. We exploit cross-city variation in the estimated number of excess handgun acquisitions in California following the 2012 presidential election and the Sandy Hook school shooting 5 weeks later to assess whether the additional handguns were associated with increases in the rate of firearm-related harms at the city level. Methods: We use a two-stage modeling approach. First, we estimate excess handguns as the difference between actual handgun acquisitions, as recorded in California's Dealer Record of Sales, and expected acquisitions, as predicted by a seasonal autoregressive integrated moving-average (SARIMA) time series model. We use Poisson regression models to estimate the effect of city-level excess handgun purchasing on city-level changes in rates of firearm mortality and injury. Results: We estimate there were 36,142 excess handguns acquired in California in the 11 weeks following the election (95% prediction interval: 22,780 to 49,505); the Sandy Hook shooting occurred in week 6. We find city-level purchasing spikes were associated with higher rates of firearm injury in the 52 weeks post-election: a relative rate of 1.044 firearm injuries for each excess handgun per 1,000 people (95% CI: 1.000 to 1.089). This amounts to approximately 290 (95% CI: 0 to 616) additional firearm injuries (roughly a 4% increase) in California over the year. We do not detect statistically significant associations for shorter time windows or for firearm mortality. Conclusion: This study provides evidence for an association between excess handgun acquisitions following high-profile events and firearm injury at the community level. This suggests that even marginal increases in handgun prevalence may be impactful.

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APA

Laqueur, H. S., Kagawa, R. M. C., McCort, C. D., Pallin, R., & Wintemute, G. (2019). The impact of spikes in handgun acquisitions on firearm-related harms. Injury Epidemiology, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40621-019-0212-0

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