And they dovetail with a study published in May, which was the first to rigorously measure the spike in gun sales after mass shootings. Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, that study found a 53 percent boost in gun sales in California in the six weeks following the Sandy Hook shootings and a 41 percent increase over normal sales levels in the state in the six weeks after the December 2015 San Bernardino shootings in which 14 were gunned down.
The California data culled from that study suggested that 59 percent of Californians' additional gun purchases after Sandy Hook were made by first-time firearm buyers.
By linking increased gun exposure to heightened rates of accidental gun deaths, the authors of the new study in Science are making an early effort to weave together the disparate threads of recent research. Their findings offer evidence -- indirect, though it may be -- that fatal accidents are more common when first-time owners bring home a gun, as well as when gun owners haul out their guns to clean them, check them or make room for a new purchase. They also suggest that this kind of firearms "churn" takes place more often in the wake of mass shootings.
"The idea this shock to the system added to gun sales is certainly plausible and seems like the beginning of a causal story," said Cook, who has studied the economics of guns and crime for decades.
It's hard to link two streams of data -- on the availability of guns and the behavior of gun owners -- and draw firm conclusions about how and why firearms injuries occur, Cook said.
"I love the spirit of this article, which was to try to cut through that problem," Cook said.
And there may be more to come, he added.
After 1996, when a law barred the use of some federal funds for firearms research, a once-vibrant field of study went virtually dormant, he said. Now, prompted by a surge in private funds, public concerns and academic interest, Cook predicted that "more top researchers are going to gravitate to this area of research."
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