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Effect of mass shootings on gun sales—A 20-year perspective

Callcut, Rachael A. MD; Robles, Anamaria M. MD; Kornblith, Lucy Z. MD; Plevin, Rebecca E. MD; Mell, Matthew W. MD

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: September 2019 - Volume 87 - Issue 3 - p 531–540
doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000002399

BACKGROUND Granular data on gun sales has been historically difficult to obtain. In 2016, California (CA) made monthly data from 1996 to 2015 publically available. Control charts are a method to analyze how a process changes over time in response to nonroutine events. We utilized this technique to study the impact of US mass shootings on CA gun sales.

METHODS Monthly gun sales were provided by the CA Department of Justice and monthly fatalities from the CDC Wonder Death Certificate Registry. Mass shooting events were obtained from after-action reports, news media, and court proceedings. Time-ordered data were analyzed with control charts with 95% confidence intervals (upper control limit, lower control limit) using QiMacros.

RESULTS Individual gun sales of 9,917,811 occurred in CA with a median monthly rate of 41,324 (range, 20,057–132,903). A median of 263 people lost their lives monthly from firearms (124 homicides, 128 suicides), totaling 53,975 fatalities from 1999 to 2015. Fifteen of 21 current deadliest mass shootings occurred during this study period with 40% from 2012 to 2015. Also, 36 school shootings occurred during the study (mean, 5 deaths; range, 0–33; 6 injuries; range, 0–23) with 31% in 2012 to 2015 at rate of 3 events/year versus 1.4 events/year in the 17 prior years (p < 0.05). Sales were generally consistent from 1996 to 2011 (except post-Columbine, Col). Starting in 2011, sales exceeded the 95% predicted upper control limit every single month. Before October 2011, there was no statistically significant sustained effect of mass shootings on sales (except Col); however, since a statistically significant proportional spike in sales occurred in the months immediately following every single deadliest mass shooting event. Every year since 2012, CA has strengthened gun laws in response to mass shootings yet sales have risen immediately preceding enactment of these laws each January.

CONCLUSION Gun sales are more frequent since 2012, with an additional increase following both mass shootings and legislative changes enacted in response to these shootings.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Epidemiology, level III.

From the Department of Surgery (R.A.C., A.M.R., L.Z.K., R.E.P.), University of California, San Francisco; Department of Surgery (R.A.C., A.M.R., L.Z.K., R.E.P.), San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco, and Department of Surgery (M.W.M.), University of California, Davis, Sacramento, California.

Submitted: September 8, 2018, Revised: April 21, 2019, Accepted: April 22, 2019, Published online: May 31, 2019.

Presented at the 77th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma(AAST), September 27, 2018, in San Diego, California.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text, and links to the digital files are provided in the HTML text of this article on the journal’s Web site (

Address for reprints: Rachael A Callcut, MD, MSPH, Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, 1001 Potrero Ave, Ward 3A, San Francisco, CA 94110; email:

Online date: June 3, 2019

© 2019 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.