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Mass Shootings and Public Support for Gun Control

  • Benjamin J. Newman and Todd K. Hartman
Abstract

The recent spate of mass public shootings in the United States raises important questions about how these tragic events might impact mass opinion and public policy. Integrating research on focusing events, contextual effects and perceived threat, this article stipulates that residing near a mass shooting should increase support for gun control by making the threat of gun violence more salient. Drawing upon multiple data sources on mass public shootings paired with large-N survey data, it demonstrates that increased proximity to a mass shooting is associated with heightened public support for stricter gun control. Importantly, the results show that this effect does not vary by partisanship, but does vary as a function of salience-related event factors, such as repetition, magnitude and recency. Critically, the core result is replicated using panel data. Together, these results suggest a process of context-driven policy feedback between existing gun laws, egregious gun violence and demand for policy change.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Department of Political Science, School of Public Policy, University of California, Riverside (email: bnewman@ucr.edu); Sheffield Methods Institute, The University of Sheffield (email: t.k.hartman@sheffield.ac.uk). We would like to thank Steven Melendez for his help with the data and Figure 1. Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: https://dx.doi.org/10.7910/DVN/LL6UTV and an online appendix is available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123417000333.

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