Accidental gun killings surged after Sandy Hook school shooting

Accidental gun killings surged after Sandy Hook school shooting

In the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, the number of guns purchased in America spiked compared to baseline levels, and there were 60 additional accidental deaths related to firearms - 20 among children and 40 among adults, a new study estimates.

Ten vigils and gatherings of remembrance will take place in multiple towns across Vermont including an event in Charlotte on December 11 at 6 the Charlotte Congregational Church. "You can't believe how many times some unbelievably bad thing happens just because a person is carrying a gun, whether it's a two-year-old kid shooting his mother, or a father demonstrating his gun to his son and killing his daughter".

That increase in accidental gun deaths represents a 27 percent increase overall for the nation in that time frame, and a 64 percent increase in accidental gun deaths involving children.

Other vigils in Chittenden County will be held in Burlington, Jericho and Williston.

There are limitations spelled out in the study: Vital Statistics typically undercounts the actual number of people who die from gun violence, and this study counts only deaths. Because the authors are limited by the lack of reliable data on USA gun ownership, she says, "they do something smart". They found that this estimated increase in gun exposure corresponded to an increase of 60 accidental firearm deaths during this period, including 20 children.

The authors concluded that this analysis provides evidence indicating that the spike in gun exposure that followed the Sandy Hook school shooting increased the incidence of accidental firearm deaths. "But I don't think this will be the final word", said Philip Cook, a leading gun policy expert at Duke University. "The talking point is going to be: If you have X more exposure to guns, you have Y more accidents", he says. "They feel unnerved by what has happened".

But she is critical of at least one aspect of the study.

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Despite this, "I don't think one should take away that you shouldn't bother trying", says Levine. A study published this year in the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that so-called first-time transactions-the first time a buyer was documented to have obtained a weapon-accounted for 57% of the surge in gun acquisitions in that state in the first 6 weeks after Sandy Hook.

For their research, the two professors analyzed Google data between 2010 and 2014 and found that the amount of searches that included the phrases "buy gun" and "clean gun" jumped up significantly in the four months after Sandy Hook. They call this "suggestive evidence" that gun exposure increased after the Sandy Hook killings. The authors discuss a study that suggested that "right-to-carry" (RTC) laws reduced crime, citing a number of technical shortcomings, including how the study dealt with the wave of crack cocaine-related crime during the 1980s/90s; these shortcomings have since been addressed in subsequent work, which predominatly suggests that RTC actually increases crime.

That means there's no national database of gun purchases, so it's hard to tell how many guns are sold. But until now, there hadn't been any definitive proof that these rises in gun sales resulted in any surge in gun deaths. The study period also bracketed a time during which Obama argued forcefully for, and issued executive orders aimed at, increasing federal gun regulation.

In a further analysis, the researchers divided USA states into those, post-Sandy Hook, that had an increase in gun sales either greater or less than 1000 per 100,000 head of population. They divided US states into two groups: those where more than 1000 additional guns were sold per 100,000 residents over the 5-month period, and those with fewer sales.

That stark finding, says Levine, "just strengthens support for our hypothesis".

"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.

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