CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Why Mass Shootings Haven't Ushered In a New Age of Gun Control"

From, this discussion of a paper by Josh Blackman and Shelby Baird. In part:

 A widely covered mass murder typically produces a period of "emotional capture," which frequently (though not always) includes greater public support for new gun controls. "Some who in the past moderately supported stricter gun laws now strongly support it," Blackman and Baird explain, "while some who in the past moderately opposed stricter gun laws will now moderately support them." This creates a window in which legislative action is more likely to succeed. But it's a small window: The period of emotional capture is followed by a regression to the mean, in part because many of those new supporters of gun laws "ask themselves if the purpose of these legislative moves was to stop the actual crime that occurred, or to advance a broader agenda they may not be comfortable with."

Looking at polling data from the last few shooting cycles, Blackman and Baird conclude that there isn't just a regression to the mean, but that "the mean is in fact declining. In other words, after each spike subsides, support for gun control is even lower than it was before the shooting." They don't think this pattern is inevitable, but for now, "Less support for gun control laws after tragedies is the normal reaction to mass shootings. Not the other way around."

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