Media coverage and firearm acquisition in the aftermath of a mass shooting

Nat Hum Behav. 2019 Sep;3(9):913-921. doi: 10.1038/s41562-019-0636-0. Epub 2019 Jun 24.


With an alarming frequency, the United States is experiencing mass shooting events, which often result in heated public debates on firearm control. Whether such events play any role in recent dramatic increases in firearm prevalence remains an open question. This study adopts an information-theoretic framework to analyse the complex interplay between the occurrence of a mass shooting, media coverage on firearm control policies and firearm acquisition at both national and state levels. Through the analysis of time series from 1999 to 2017, we identify a correlation between the occurrence of a mass shooting and the rate of growth in firearm acquisition. More importantly, a transfer entropy analysis pinpoints media coverage on firearm control policies as a potential causal link in a Wiener-Granger sense that establishes this correlation. Our results demonstrate that media coverage may increase public worry about more stringent firearm control and partially drive increases in firearm prevalence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Mass Casualty Incidents* / psychology
  • Mass Media*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Gunshot / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Gunshot / psychology*