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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

UCLA: Mathematics Ties Media Coverage of Gun Control to Upticks in Gun Purchases

For the first time, researchers have shown a causal link between print news media coverage of U.S. gun control policy in the wake of mass shooting events and increases in firearm acquisition, particularly in states with the least restrictive gun laws.

The results of a study led by researchers at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, in collaboration with faculty at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Northeastern University, are rooted in a data-driven approach that reveals causal relationships, rather than mere correlations. It is the first study to quantify the influence of news media stories on firearm prevalence.

Media Coverage and Firearm Acquisition in the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting” was published today in Nature Human Behaviour.

Increases in firearm purchases following mass shootings are well-observed phenomena, likely driven by concerns that these events could lead to more restrictive gun controls. However, in one surprising finding, the analysis revealed no causal link between an actual mass shooting and gun purchases. Previous studies had noted a correlation between the two.

“The public health impact of firearm-related physical injury has dramatically increased over recent years and is now a leading cause of death,” said Dr. James A. Macinko, a co-author of the study and professor of health policy and management and community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “Our study suggests the need for dialogue around how mass shooting events are discussed by the press, in order to find ways to mitigate unintended consequences.”

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