Mass shootings encourage first time gun owners in California, study finds

A new study released this week suggests mass shootings may encourage California’s potential gun owners to make that first purchase.

The research, published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded California’s handgun sales spiked 53 percent in the months following the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012 and 41 percent after the San Bernardino attack in December 2015.

David Studdert, a professor of law and medicine at Stanford University who authored the study, told CNN Tuesday many of those purchases came from residents who never before owned a gun.

“This, I think, reinforces the idea that safety and security concerns are motivating these purchases,” he said.

Studdert said California’s practice of registering all handgun sales makes the state’s data following mass shootings “uniquely comprehensive,” though his research can’t definitively prove why more guns were sold — just how many more were sold.

His research also shows the spikes don’t last long — maybe six to eight weeks following a major event and accounting for less than 10 percent of the handguns sold in California in both 2013 and 2016.

“If you are concerned about public health implications of gun ownership, I’m not sure that these spikes are exactly where you want to be looking,” he told CNN. “There’s an enormous stockpile of guns out there already in households.”

During a 2013 survey, Gallup reported 60 percent of gun owners said they keep a weapon for “personal safety or protection.” The analysts said past surveys also indicate Americans “tend to believe” a gun in the home or carrying concealed weapons “would do more to keep people safe than to put them at risk of harm.”

The analysts behind a separate Gallup poll released in December, however, struggle to explain the link between crime victimization and gun ownership while studying 16 years of survey results.

Larry Pratt, executive director emeritus of Gun Owners of America, told CNN he agrees with the notion that more guns make people safer and said mass shootings may be the final straw for those “predisposed” to arming themselves for self-defense.

“When something like that happens and it’s vividly covered in the media, then that may prompt them to finally take action,” he said. “A really good response time … is about four to five minutes. … And a lot of the horrific shootings have taken a lot of lives well within that time.”