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Firearms makers play key role in America’s gun culture

Firearms makers play key role in America’s gun culture

6 charts shows key role firearms makers play in America’s gun culture
Credit: Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Source: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Americans have blamed many culprits, from mental illness to inadequate security, for the tragic mass shootings that are occurring with increasing frequency in schools, offices and theaters across the U.S.

The latest, which occurred on May 24, 2022, at a Texas and left at least 19 children and two teachers dead, was the 213th mass shooting this year—and the 27th that took place in a school.

Yet during much of America's ongoing conversation about the root causes of gun violence, the makers of guns have typically escaped scrutiny. As a public health researcher, I find this odd, because evidence shows that the culture around guns contributes significantly to gun violence. And firearm manufacturers have played a major role in influencing American gun culture.

That's beginning to change, particularly since the US$73 million settlement between the families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the maker of the rifle used in the massacre. This may open the door for more lawsuits against firearm manufacturers.

To help support this much-needed discussion, I'd like to share some critical facts about the firearm industry that I've learned from my research on gun violence prevention.

6 charts shows key role firearms makers play in America’s gun culture
Credit: Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Source: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Surging handgun sales

The U.S. is saturated with guns, and has become a lot more so over the past decade. In 2020 alone, U.S. gun manufacturers produced 11.1 million firearms, up from 5.4 million in 2010. Pistols and rifles made up about 75% of the total.

In addition, only a small number of gun-makers dominate the market. The top five pistol manufacturers alone controlled over 70% of all production in 2020: Smith & Wesson; Sig Sauer; Sturm, Ruger & Co.; Glock and Kimber Manufacturing. Similarly, the biggest rifle manufacturers—Sturm, Smith & Wesson, Springfield, Henry Rac Holding and Diamondback Firearms—controlled 61% of that market.

But all that only tells part of the story. A look at the caliber of pistols manufactured over the past decade reveals a significant change in demand that has reshaped the industry.

The number of manufactured large-caliber pistols able to fire rounds greater than or equal to 9 mm has soared over the past 15 years, rising from just over half a million in 2005 to more than 3.9 million by 2020. The number of .38-caliber pistols—small handguns designed specifically for concealed carry—jumped to a record 1.1 million in 2016 and totaled 660,000 in 2020, compared with 107,000 in 2005.

This indicates a growing demand for more lethal weapons, especially those focused specifically on self-defense and concealed carry.

The production of rifles has also increased, doubling from 1.4 million in 2005 to 2.8 million in 2020, though down from a record 4.2 million in 2016. This is driven primarily by a higher demand for semi-automatic weapons, including assault rifles.

6 charts shows key role firearms makers play in America’s gun culture
Credit: Table: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Source: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Explaining the stats

So what can explain the jump in the sale of high-caliber handguns and semi-automatic rifles?

Gun-makers have become very effective at marketing their wares as necessary tools for self-defense—perhaps in large part to offset a decline in demand for recreational use.

For example, in 2005, Smith & Wesson announced a major new marketing campaign focused on "safety, security, protection and sport." The number of guns the company sold soared after the switch, climbing 30% in 2005 and 50% in 2006, led by strong growth in pistol sales. By comparison, the number of firearms sold in 2004 rose 11% over the previous year.

There's strong survey evidence that gun owners have become less likely to cite hunting or sport as a reason for their ownership, instead pointing to personal security. The percentage of gun owners who told Gallup that the reason they possessed a was for hunting fell to 40% in 2019 from almost 60% in 2000. The share that cited "sport" as their reason fell even more.

Meanwhile, Gallup found that 88% of gun owners in 2021 reported self-defense as a primary reason, up from 67% in 2005.

6 charts shows key role firearms makers play in America’s gun culture
Credit: Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND

'Stand your ground' laws flourish

Another possible explanation for the uptick in handguns could be the widespread adoption of state "stand your ground" laws in recent years. These laws explicitly allow people to use guns as a first resort for self-defense in the face of a threat.

Utah enacted the first "stand your ground" measure in 1994. The second law wasn't adopted until 2005 in Florida. A year later, "stand your ground" laws took off, with 11 states enacting one in 2006 alone. Another 15 have passed such laws since then, bringing the total number of states that have them on the books to 28.

These laws were the result of a concerted National Rifle Association lobbying campaign. For example, Florida's law, which George Zimmerman used in 2013 to escape charges for killing Trayvon Martin, was drafted by former NRA President Marion Hammer.

It's not clear whether the campaign to promote stand-your-ground laws fueled the surge in handgun production. But it's possible that it's part of a larger effort to normalize the ownership of firearms for self-defense.

This overall picture suggests that a marketing change fueled an increased demand for more lethal weapons. This, in turn, appears to have fostered a change in gun culture, which has shifted away from an appreciation of the use of guns for hunting, sport and recreation and toward a view that guns are a necessity to protect oneself from criminals.

How and whether this change in gun culture is influencing rates of firearms violence is a question I'm currently researching.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.The Conversation

Citation: Firearms makers play key role in America's gun culture (2022, May 27) retrieved 30 May 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-05-firearms-makers-key-role-america.html

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Everything we know about Daniel Defense, which manufactured the gun used in Uvalde

Everything we know about Daniel Defense, which manufactured the gun used in Uvalde

The AR-15-style weapon that a teenage shooter used to kill 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last week was purchased from a company called Daniel Defense, based in Georgia.

One of the largest private manufacturers of guns in the US, its goods are easily procured online with a few clicks as Quartz recently tried out for itself.

Here’s what else you need to know about the company:

It sent “thoughts and prayers” to Uvalde victims’ families

The company put up a statement on its website that addressed the shooting saying it was “deeply saddened by the tragic events in Texas this week.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and community devastated by this evil act,” it read. The company also added that it was cooperating with law enforcement officials in the investigation.

Because of increased public scrutiny, it pulled out of the annual NRA show which opened Friday, stating that “we believe this week is not the appropriate time to be promoting our products in Texas.”

It also made the weapons used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting

This is not the first time that Daniel Defense weapons were used in a mass shooting. The Las Vegas gunman who fired on a music festival in 2018 killing 58 people had bought four semi-automatic rifles made by the company.

Founded in 2000 by former garage door salesman Marty Daniel, the firm produced about 52,000 firearms in 2020, a big jump from the 32,000 in 2019, according to data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Daniel told Forbes in a 2017 interview that the company grossed $73 million in sales the year before.

Gun company stocks usually rise in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting event as people, worried about a crackdown on gun ownership, rush to buy more products. Although Daniel Defense is private, its owner said that it, too, has seen sales rise after mass shootings, including the one in Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.

It’s a well-funded Republican donor

Daniel said in the same Forbes interview that he supported Trump “100% “in the 2016 election, praising the former president for his stance on gun ownership. Trump also happens to be giving the keynote speech on Friday evening at this year’s NRA convention.

This year, the owners of the company donated more than $70,000 directly to GOP candidates for federal office this election cycle, according to the Washington Post. Last year, the company itself gave $100,000 last year to a PAC backing incumbent Republican senators.

It recently used a toddler in its gun ads

A week before the shooting at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School, the company posted an ad featuring a toddler holding a gun. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” it published to Twitter on May 16, the same day the Robb Elementary shooter turned 18. It was a reference to a Bible verse.


The deleted Daniel Defense post.

The company has since taken down the tweet after a backlash, but gun companies have increasingly targeted young children, especially boys. Previous Defense Daniel social media posts show it has also funded high school shooting clubs.

It’s a prolific poster in social media

Daniel Defense’s marketing suggests it’s trying to reach a mainstream audience. In 2014, it submitted a minute-long spot for the Super Bowl but was rejected because of the NFL’s rules against advertisements for “firearms, ammunition or other weapons.” It posted the ad to its own website, calling it the “greatest Super Bowl ad that never was.”

Earlier this month, to mark Cinco de Mayo, it posted a video of a man shooting a piñata, which it matched to the lively beat of a mambo. For Christmas, it gift-wrapped guns and bullets in festive paper, while its 2016 Valentine’s Day post showed an illustration of a shooter spraying out a string of hearts instead of bullets.

Some of its regularly deployed hashtags are #pewpew #gunporn #gunsofinstagram and #ootd or “outfit of the day”, asking its followers to post pictures of their gun paired with their outfit. 

It’s also quick to latch onto the cultural zeitgeist, including with a references to the hit Netflix show Squid Games. A few years back, the company promoted a photo of the singer Post Malone holding a gun, too.

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The Field of Firearms Forensics Is Flawed

The Field of Firearms Forensics Is Flawed

In 2003, Donald Kennedy, then editor in chief of the journal Science, wrote an editorial called, “Forensic Science: Oxymoron?” He answered this question, in effect, “yes.” Unfortunately, the answer remains much the same today. Forensic experts continue to employ unproven techniques, and courts continue to accept their testimony largely unchecked. However, courts have recently begun to recognize the scientific limitations of one forensic field: firearms identification, in which an examiner visually compares fired bullets or cartridge cases and opines on whether the items were fired by the same gun. Contrary to its popular reputation, firearms identification is a field built largely on smoke and mirrors.

Firearms examiners suffer from what might be called “Sherlock Holmes Syndrome.” They claim they can “match” a cartridge case or bullet to a specific gun, and thus solve a case. Science is not on their side, however. Few studies of firearms exist and those that do indicate that examiners cannot reliably determine whether bullets or cartridges were fired by a particular gun. Firearms identification, like all purportedly scientific proof, must adhere to consistent and evidence-based standards. Fundamental justice requires no less. Absent such standards, the likelihood of convicting the innocent—and thus letting the guilty go free—is too great. It is perhaps this realization that has led courts to slowly start taking notice and restrict firearms testimony.

In the courts, firearms examiners present themselves as experts. Indeed, they do possess the expertise of a practitioner in the application of forensic techniques, much as a physician is a practitioner of medical tools such as drugs or vaccines. But there is a key distinction between this form of expertise and that of a researcher, who is professionally trained in experimental design, statistics and the scientific method; who manipulates inputs and measures outputs to confirm that the techniques are valid. Both forms of expertise have value, but for different purposes. If you need a COVID vaccine, the nurse has the right form of expertise. By contrast, if you want to know whether the vaccine is effective, you don’t ask the nurse; you ask research scientists who understand how it was created and tested.

Unfortunately, courts have rarely heard testimony from classically trained research scientists who could verify claims made by firearms examiners and explain basic principles and methods of science. Only research scientists have the wherewithal to counter the claims of practitioner-experts. What are needed are anti-expert experts. Such experts are now appearing more and more in courts across the country, and we count ourselves proudly among this group.

Skepticism of firearms identification is not new. A 2009 National Research Council (NRC) report criticized the firearms identification field as lacking “a precisely defined process.” Guidelines from the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE) allow examiners to declare a match between a bullet or cartridge case and a particular firearm “when the unique surface contours of two toolmarks are in ‘sufficient agreement.’” According to the guidelines, sufficient agreement is the condition in which the comparison “exceeds the best agreement demonstrated between tool marks known to have been produced by different tools and is consistent with the agreement demonstrated by tool marks known to have been produced by the same tool.” In other words, the criterion for a life-shaping decision is based not on quantitative standards but on the examiner’s subjective experience.

A 2016 report by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) echoed the NRC’s conclusion that the firearms identification process is “circular,” and it described the sort of empirical studies required to test the validity of firearms identification. At that time, only one appropriately designed study had been completed, carried out by the Ames Laboratory of the Department of Energy, colloquially called “Ames I.” PCAST concluded that more than a single appropriately designed study was necessary to validate the field of firearm examination, and it called for additional studies to be conducted.

The NRC and PCAST reports were attacked vigorously by firearms examiners. Although the reports per se had little impact on judicial rulings, they did inspire additional tests of firearms identification accuracy. These studies report amazingly low error rates, typically around 1 percent or less, which emboldens examiners to testify that their methodology is nearly infallible. But how the studies arrive at these error rates is dubious and without anti-expert experts to explain why these studies are flawed, courts and juries can and have been bamboozled into accepting specious claims.

In fieldwork, firearms examiners generally reach one of three categorical conclusions: the bullets are from the same source, called “identification,” a different source, called “elimination,” or “inconclusive,” which is used when the examiner feels the quality of the sample is insufficient for identification or elimination. While this “I don’t know” category makes sense in fieldwork, the clandestine way it has been treated in validation studies—and presented in court—is flawed and seriously misleading.

The problem arises in regard to how to classify an “inconclusive” response in the research. Unlike fieldwork, researchers studying firearms identification in laboratory settings create the bullets and cartridge cases to use in their studies. Hence, they know whether comparisons came from the same gun or a different gun. They know “ground truth.” Like a true/false exam, there are only two answers in these research studies; “I don’t know” or “inconclusive” is not one of them.

Existing studies, however, count inconclusive responses as correct (i.e., “not errors”) without any explanation or justification. These inconclusive responses have a huge impact on the reported error rates. In the Ames I study, for example, the researchers reported a false positive error rate of 1 percent. But here’s how they got to that: of the 2,178 comparisons they made between nonmatching cartridge cases, 65 percent of the comparisons were correctly called “eliminations.” The other 34 percent of the comparisons were called “inconclusive”, but instead of keeping them as their own category, the researchers lumped them in with eliminations, leaving 1 percent as what they called their false-positive rate. If, however, those inconclusive responses are errors, then the error rate would be 35 percent. Seven years later, the Ames Laboratory conducted another study, known as Ames II, using the same methodology and reported false positive error rates for bullet and cartridge case comparisons of less than 1 percent. However, when calling inconclusive responses as incorrect instead of correct, the overall error rate skyrockets to 52 percent.

The most telling findings came from subsequent phases of the Ames II study in which researchers sent the same items back to the same examiner to re-evaluate and then to different examiners to see whether results could be repeated by the same examiner or reproduced by another. The findings were shocking: The same examiner looking at the same bullets a second time reached the same conclusion only two thirds of the time. Different examiners looking at the same bullets reached the same conclusion less than one third of the time. So much for getting a second opinion! And yet firearms examiners continue to appear in court claiming that studies of firearms identification demonstrate an exceedingly low error rate.

The English biologist Thomas Huxley famously said that “Science is nothing but trained and organized common sense.” In most contexts, judges display an uncommon degree of common sense. However, when it comes to translating science for courtroom use, judges need the help of scientists. But this help must come not just in the form of scientific reports and published articles. Scientists are needed in the courtroom, and one way to do this is to serve as an anti-expert expert.

This is an opinion and analysis article, and the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American.



    David L. Faigman is chancellor and dean and John F. Digardi Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California, Hastings, College of the Law. Faigman regularly teaches at judicial conferences about the strengths and weaknesses of the forensic specialties and has testified in more than a dozen cases on firearms and other forensic areas of claimed expertise. He was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama's President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology's (PCAST's) 2016 report.

      Nicholas Scurich is a professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychological Science and the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. Scurich researches topics in applied decision-making and the assessment of risky and dangerous behavior. He has testified in state and federal courts on firearms identification as well as other topics at the intersection of science and law.

        Thomas D. Albright holds the Conrad T. Prebys Chair in Vision Research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he is a professor and director of the Vision Center Laboratory. Albright co-chaired the National Academy of Sciences committee on eyewitness identification, served on the National Commission on Forensic Science and is currently on the Human Factors Committee of the NIST Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science.

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        House Oversight Committee to Probe Gunmakers After Texas School Shooting

        House Oversight Committee to Probe Gunmakers After Texas School Shooting

        Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, has opened an investigation into five U.S. gun manufacturers in the wake of the Texas school shooting.

        Maloney sent letters Friday ahead of a hearing on gun violence on June 8 to Bushmaster Firearms (pdf), Daniel Defense (pdf), Sig Sauer (pdf), Smith and Wesson (pdf), and Ruger (pdf) asking for data on how they make, market, and sell semiautomatic rifles.

        “Our country faces an epidemic of gun violence, which is now the leading cause of death for children in the United States,” Maloney wrote, tying guns made by the five companies to mass shootings of the last two decades.

        “I am deeply concerned that gun manufacturers continue to profit from the sale of weapons of war, including the AR-15-style assault rifle that a white supremacist used to murder ten people last week in Buffalo, New York, and the AR-15-style assault rifle that was reportedly used this week in the massacre of at least 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.”

        Epoch Times Photo
        Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) speaks during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, on Sept. 23, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool via Reuters)

        The Democratic lawmaker from New York accused the manufacturers of “reaping a profit from the deaths of innocent Americans” by marketing their guns “to civilians.”

        She asked the companies to reveal their “annual gross revenue and profit” from semiautomatic gun sales since 2012, how much they spend on marketing annually, and how many are sold annually to distributors, retailers, consumers, and government agencies.

        Maloney said the Uvalde gunman who killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School on May 24 used a semiautomatic rifle made by Daniel Defense, which markets firearms on its website under the categories of sports use, personal defense use, and professional arms use.

        She also cited the recent 2022 Buffalo grocery store shooting, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and the 2002 D.C. sniper attacks, among others, as times weapons made by the five manufacturers were linked to mass shootings. 

        The AR-15 style rifle used by the gunman in Uvalde was made by @DanielDefense.

        The Las Vegas shooter was also found with four AR-15-style rifles from DD, including one outfitted with a bump stock and 100 round magazine.

        As Chair of @OversightDems, I am investigating them. https://t.co/Wk83mQX1ML

        — Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney) May 27, 2022

        Maloney accused the five gun manufacturers of “aggressively” marketing their products to the public despite “strong public support for an assault-weapon ban.”

        “The Committee respects the rights of law-abiding Americans under the Second Amendment, but that does not excuse irresponsible corporate conduct that fuels deadly gun violence and endangers our children,” she wrote.

        The Epoch Times has contacted Bushmaster Firearms, Daniel Defense, Sig Sauer, Smith and Wesson, and Ruger for comment.

        U.S. gunmaker Remington Arms settled a $73 million lawsuit by the parents of Sandy Hook victims in February. The company argued the shooter was responsible, not the manufacturer. It was the first time a gun manufacturer was held responsible for a shooting.

        Some of the parents of the victims argued that if the company didn’t market their guns to young men, their children would still be alive. Remington had argued it was immune from claims because of the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, but ultimately decided to settle to prevent the case from going to trial.

        Second Amendment supporters
        Second Amendment supporters gathered across the street from the Colorado State Capital to voice their support for gun ownership in Denver, Colo., on Jan. 9, 2013. (Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

        However, proponents of gun rights argue their constitutional right to bear arms without infringement, under the Second Amendment, is an important safeguard from the potential tyranny of government.

        This view was recently supported by the world’s richest man, Telsa and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who said he “strongly” believed in the right.

        “Historically, maintaining their power over the people is why those in power did not allow public ownership of guns,” Musk said in an email to CNBC on May 25.

        In the same email, Musk elaborated that he supports applying “tight background checks” on all gun purchases, and limits on gun sales to people with special circumstances such as “high-risk location, like gang warfare,” reported CNBC.

        Later, on Twitter, he further revealed his thoughts, advocating for “at minimum” a “special permit” to own “assault rifles.”

        Assault rifles should at minimum require a special permit, where the recipient is extremely well vetted imo

        — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 26, 2022

        Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a nonprofit government watchdog, replied to Musk’s posts with what he thinks is the point at issue between gun control activists and those advocating for the right to bear arms.

        “A gun is a gun is a gun when it comes to those commonly available to civilians. ‘Assault rifles’ (as gun opponents have broadly defined) are no more/less deadly than other avail firearms. ‘Assault rifles’ (full automatic fire kind you likely mean) already banned/highly restricted,” Fitton said.

        “In truth, anti-gun activists seek severe restrictions on, and oppose in concept, any individual civilian RIGHT to own ANY firearm, even though it is an inalienable right specifically recognized in the U.S. Constitution under the Second Amendment. This is the debate,” Fitton added.

        Former President Donald Trump on Friday also spoke in support of gun rights, saying the “existence of evil” in the world made it important to arm law-abiding citizens.

        “The existence of evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens who know how to use their weapons and can protect a lot of people. The existence of evil is one of the best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens,” Trump said at the National Rifle Association annual convention.

        Gary Bai contributed to this report.

        Caden Pearson


        Caden Pearson is a journalist based in Australia. He has a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him on caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au

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        Scientists have found firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents 0-19 years of age, with a staggering 83 percent increase in youth firearm fatalities over the past decade

        Scientists have found firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents 0-19 years of age, with a staggering 83 percent increase in youth firearm fatalities over the past decade

        Sorry, this post has been removed by the moderators of r/science.

        Moderators remove posts from feeds for a variety of reasons, including keeping communities safe, civil, and true to their purpose.

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        level 1

        ModModerator Achievement · 4 hr. ago · Stickied commentPhD | Biomedical Engineering | Optics

        Your post has been removed because it does not reference new peer-reviewed research and is therefore in violation of Submission Rule #1.

        If your submission is scientific in nature, consider reposting in our sister subreddit r/EverythingScience.

        If you believe this removal to be unwarranted, or would like further clarification, please don't hesitate to message the moderators..

        level 1

        Interesting that it's not just down to a recent increase in firearms deaths (which is quite alarming), but also due to a 50% decrease in car crash deaths between 2005-2015, which was the previous leading cause of death.

        [edit: the graph in figure 1 here shows the trends nicely: https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMc2201761 ]

        [edit2: added a space after the link, because reddit gives zero fucks about compatibility between versions]

        level 2

        That jump in drug overdoses and poisonings since 2019 is quite a sharp incline too. Still a lower amount, but a sharp uptick for them.

        level 2

        Car safety has gone up exponentially in the last decade. There are a ton of newer safety features that are now required to even put a new car on the market. The bar is even higher several states.

        Sensors and cameras are making a huge impact on decreasing collisions. Not to mention just pure engineering that reduces severe injuries in the event of an accident.

        Can't wait to see what we come up with in another 10-20 years.

        level 2

        That's because there's been an increase in regulations surrounding vehicle safety.

        Cars are dangerous, after all, and it would be foolish not to tightly regulate their usage.

        level 2

        Crazy how safety regulations can decrease fatality rates. If only there were some way to impose safety regulations on the new leading cause of death for adolescents in the US.

        level 2

        Cool, one problem being addressed, now how about the other?

        level 2

        It’s still up over 80% which is nearly double...

        level 2

        To drive a car you have to be licensed and registered. Not so for guns.

        level 2

        Link is sending me to a 404 error on NEJMs website. Can you relink please?

        level 2

        Not exactly sure, but could the drop off in vehicle-related deaths be due to less driving from 2019-2020’s stay-at-home COVID advisories?

        level 2

        Also this is based on 2020, when kids weren’t in school and cars weren’t on the road

        level 1

        Firearms are leading cause of death among U.S. youth.

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        Support For Gun Control Will Likely Rise After Uvalde. But History Suggests It Will Fade.

        Support For Gun Control Will Likely Rise After Uvalde. But History Suggests It Will Fade.

        After a racist shooting earlier this month at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, guns have — yet again — emerged as a political issue that has dominated headlines. Democrats have issued impassioned pleas for the government to more tightly regulate the sale of firearms, and if past shootings are any indication, we will soon get a fresh batch of polling data showing that solid majorities of Americans agree with them. But again, if past shootings are any indication, Congress will not pass any reforms, in large part because many Republicans oppose gun control reform. And as happened so many times before, the strong public support for gun control will fade away with our memories of the shootings.

        FiveThirtyEight took a look at polling and media data to show how support for gun laws has increased amid intense media coverage of past school shootings, but then reverted back toward the previous mean as the media spotlight moved on to other issues. We examined the period around two school shootings in 2018 to see how coverage of those events corresponded with changes in support for increased gun control. Specifically, we examined data around the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the May 18, 2018, shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.closed-caption data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive for mentions of the two-word phrase “school shooting” on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC from Feb. 1 to July 31, 2018, and overall support for stricter gun control in daily tracking polls from Civiqs during the same period.

        " data-footnote-id="1" href="http://fivethirtyeight.com/#fn-1">1 And as you can see in the chart below, there was an abrupt increase in the share of Americans who favored stricter gun laws right after each shooting, most especially Parkland, followed by a decline in support.

        Two line charts showing how overall favorability of stricter gun control laws rises, then drops, and how the number of 15-second cable news clips mentioning “school shooting” also rises, and drops again, after a mass shooting.

        Following each shooting, there was a huge surge in media attention and, correspondingly, a sharp rise in favorable views toward stricter gun laws. On the day of the Parkland massacre, about 51 percent of Americans told Civiqs they favored greater gun control, while about 42 percent were opposed. A week and a half later, the share who said they favored stricter gun laws had jumped to 58 percent, a significant increase in such a short period of time. In the wake of the Santa Fe shooting three months later, support rose from a little under 53 percent to a notch above 54 percent.

        Bombarded by a high volume of terrible images and tragic stories right after a shooting, a small but meaningful number of Americans who opposed stricter gun control moved toward supporting it. For instance, the share of Republicans who favored increased gun restrictions rose from 12 percent to 22 percent in the 10 days following the Parkland shooting, and the share of independents in support rose from 45 percent to 53 percent. The share of Democrats who supported stricter gun laws also increased, from 88 percent to 92 percent. But as coverage tailed off — in the case of Parkland — or practically evaporated — in the case of Santa Fe — the share of Americans who favored stricter gun laws reverted toward the mean. 

        This is not to say that news coverage perfectly explains shifts in support for stricter gun control. After all, partisan views on this issue likely reasserted themselves after the initial shock of the school shooting moved public opinion — for instance, the share of Republicans who favored stricter gun laws had almost returned to pre-Parkland levels before the shooting at Santa Fe caused them to shift slightly up again. However, the media does help determine the salience of certain issues by focusing coverage on particular problems facing the country. Simply put, if the media is covering something, Americans are more likely to think about it. Yet as the issue receives less attention, it moves out of the spotlight and something else takes its place.

        Even if support for stricter gun laws in the immediate aftermath of mass shootings is inflated, though, it’s clear that Americans still support more gun control overall. A Gallup poll from October 2021 — a survey that was not inspired by a particular mass shooting — found that 52 percent of Americans wanted stricter laws governing gun sales, while only 11 percent wanted less strict laws; 35 percent felt that gun laws should be kept as they were at the time. 

        And stricter gun laws have been Americans’ preference for most of the last 30 years. Back in 1990, when Gallup first asked this question, a whopping 78 percent of Americans wanted stricter gun-control laws. That number gradually fell to 43 percent by 2011, putting it in an approximate tie with the share of Americans who were satisfied with U.S. gun regulations. But the next year, in the immediate aftermath of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, support for more gun-sales restrictions increased to 58 percent, and it has remained around that high ever since — with some temporary spikes in response to major shootings like Parkland.

        Multiple line chart showing share of respondents who said sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or keep the same, from 1991 to 2020, with a clear uptick for support on stricter gun laws after Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland mass shootings.

        The trend in public opinion over the last decade offers both good and bad signs for supporters of gun control. On the one hand, Sandy Hook — which is sometimes considered a tipping point that normalized debating gun policy in response to mass shootings — appears to have had a lasting impact on American public opinion on guns. While pro-gun-control sentiment did fade in the months following Sandy Hook, it did not fall all the way back to its 2011 low — instead, the shooting seems to have fundamentally shifted the debate toward more Americans wanting stricter gun laws. On the other hand, though, support for gun control has markedly decreased since the 2019 spike associated with the shootings that summer in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, to a point even lower than the pre-Parkland (2018), pre-Las Vegas (2017), pre-Orlando (2016) baseline. (Civiqs has also picked up on this trend.)

        It’s possible that we’re about to see another large spike in support after what happened in Uvalde, but if history is any guide, it won’t last for long.

        2021 Texas laws made access to guns easier

        Geoffrey Skelley is an elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight. @geoffreyvs

        Nathaniel Rakich is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight. @baseballot

        Elena Mejía is a visual journalist at FiveThirtyEight. @elena___mejia

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        Firearm suicides are rising in the US despite declining globally

        Firearm suicides are rising in the US despite declining globally

        In the past three decades, suicides involving guns have steadily dropped around the world. While down overall in the US since 1990, they began to climb in 2006 – coinciding with increased access to firearms

        Health 25 May 2022

        By Grace Wade

        TINLEY PARK, IL - DECEMBER 17: A customer shops for a pistol at Freddie Bear Sports sporting goods store on December 17, 2012 in Tinley Park, Illinois. Americans purchased a record number of guns in 2012 and gun makers have reported a record high in demand. Firearm sales have surged recently as speculation of stricter gun laws and a re-instatement of the assault weapons ban following the mass school shooting in Connecticut . (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

        11.3 million guns were produced in the US in 2020, according to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

        Scott Olson/Getty Images

        Rates of suicide using a firearm have declined globally in the past three decades but remain high in wealthier nations. In the US, rates are lower than they were in 1990, but they have been climbing since 2006.  

        Irena Ilic at the University of Belgrade in Serbia and her colleagues analysed data from 204 countries and found that, between 1990 and 2019, the global rate of firearm suicide decreased by 2 per cent a year on average.  

        That fits within a broader global trend of decreasing suicide rates, says Paul Nestadt at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. But the specific drop in gun-related suicides probably reflects increased firearm restrictions around the world. “There have been a variety of countries recognising the role of guns in suicide, and that is likely contributing to decreasing rates,” says Nestadt. 

        Higher rates in wealthier countries

        Each year, more than 700,000 people worldwide die by suicide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than three-quarters of suicides occur in low and middle-income countries. But for those involving a firearm, rates are highest in wealthier countries, including the US, France, Canada, Switzerland, Finland and Norway. 

        In 2019, there were nearly 53,000 firearm suicides worldwide.  

        Currently, Greenland has the highest rate of firearm suicides. According to estimates from the Global Burden of Disease study, about nine people in Greenland died from this cause in 2019. That is 14.11 deaths per 100,000 people when you include both sexes, but 24.52 deaths per 100,000 men and boys.

        In the US, 23,365 people died from firearm suicide in 2019. That works out to 5.76 per 100,000 people, but just looking at men and boys, it is 10.13 deaths per 100,000. China, Japan and Singapore have some of the lowest rates, with less than 0.05 firearm suicide deaths per 100,000 people.  

        What prevents firearm suicides?

        Several studies have shown that stricter gun control laws are associated with lower rates of firearm suicide.  

        For instance, before Australia passed legislation restricting firearm access in 1996, gun-related suicide rates were declining by an average of 3 per cent a year. After the introduction of gun laws, the rate dropped by 7.4 per cent a year.  

        Austria saw a similar decline after the introduction of gun controls in 1997. Such measures have been shown to reduce firearm suicide rates in the US too.   

        Although firearm suicide rates are lower in the US than they were in 1990, they have been on the rise since 2006, coinciding with increased access to guns.  

        Since 2000, the number of firearms produced by manufacturers has nearly tripled, according to a recent report from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  

        Because suicide attempts are often impulsive acts, access to guns increases the risk of death. A 2020 study that followed 26 million California residents for 12 years found that men who owned handguns were eight times more likely to die from firearm suicide compared with those who didn’t. For women who owned a handgun, the likelihood increased to 35 times.  

        Of all suicide attempts, 8.5 per cent result in death. That rate jumps to 90 per cent when a gun is used. “Gun access doesn’t just mean someone will die by gun versus hanging – it means someone will die by gun instead of surviving,” says Nestadt. “And, importantly, for people who survive a suicide attempt, the vast majority never go on to die by suicide later,” he says. 

        Beyond access to firearms, childhood poverty, unemployment and alcohol consumption are also associated with firearm suicide, according to Ilic’s study. 

        Need a listening ear? UK Samaritans: 116123; US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 800 273 8255; hotlines in other countries.

        Journal reference: PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0267817

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        Article amended on 26 May 2022

        This story has been corrected to distinguish overall rates of firearm deaths from those specific to men and boys. The link to a recent report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has also been corrected.

        More on these topics:

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        King says he will support Biden ATF nominee in win for White House

        King says he will support Biden ATF nominee in win for White House

        Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) announced Thursday that he would back President Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a significant win for the White House.  

        King, who previously indicated he would support Steve Dettelbach for the position, made it official in a statement Thursday that cited the importance of having confirmed leadership at the agency in the wake of tragic mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.  

        “After meeting with Mr. Dettelbach, reviewing his record closely, and monitoring his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, I am confident that he has the experience and temperament required to lead the ATF with distinction,” King said in the statement.  

        “I also believe he will work to strike the important balance that this position requires: reducing gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment and the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” he added.  

        King’s support for Dettelbach is significant because the Maine senator did not support Biden’s first ATF nominee, David Chipman. Biden was forced to withdraw Chipman from consideration last fall after it became clear he lacked 50 votes to win confirmation in the upper chamber.  

        The White House has urged the Senate to move quickly to confirm Dettelbach in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting on Tuesday, which left 19 children and two teachers dead. The shooting has renewed a partisan debate about gun control measures.  

        The White House believes that Dettelbach, a former federal prosecutor from Ohio who has received backing from bipartisan mayors and law enforcement groups, will receive enough votes to be confirmed.  

        Dettelbach will need to receive support from all 50 senators, assuming that no Republicans vote to confirm him. Moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) have not yet said how they will vote. 

        Dettelbach sat for his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will need to vote to advance his nomination before the full Senate can consider it.  

        Tags Angus King Angus King ATF ATF nominee Biden David Chipman Senate confirmation hearings

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        U.S. gun production has nearly tripled since 2000

        U.S. gun production has nearly tripled since 2000

        Legal gun manufacturing in the U.S. has nearly tripled since 2000, according to a new federal tally of gun commerce released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Tuesday.

        Why it matters: A mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 dead has again reignited the debate around guns and how to regulate them in the U.S.

        By the numbers: Licensed gun manufacturers built around 11.3 million firearms in 2020, a roughly 187% increase over the amount produced in 2000.

        • In 2000, around 1,400 firearms were produced for every 100,000 people in the U.S., and that balloon to more than 3,400 by 2020. The U.S. population increased 18% over those two decades.
        • At no point since 2011 has there been a year in which fewer than around 6.7 million firearms were manufactured for domestic consumption.

        Rifles were the most commonly produced firearm between 2000 and 2009.

        • Since then, except in 2015, pistols have become by far the most-manufactured type of gun in the country.
        • In 2020, 5.5 million handguns were built, constituting 50% of all firearms produced that year.

        The ATF said police collected 19,344 privately produced and untraceable "ghost guns" in 2021.

        • It said that more than 25,000 such guns were used in crimes and recovered by law enforcement officials between 2016 and 2020, a dramatic rise and an indication that they are becoming more prevalent in the country.

        The big picture: Gun manufacturing has increased alongside U.S. exports of firearms, gun sales and the country's firearm homicide and suicides rates, according to a Centers for Disease and Prevention report published last week.

        • Gun-related homicides dramatically spiked in 2020, as did gun sales, though those were not necessarily causally related, according to a 2021 report from the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis.
        • Firearm-related injuries, like homicide and suicide, surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in 2020.

        Go deeper: Why more people of color are buying guns

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