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PLoS One. 2018 Nov 28;13(11):e0207924. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207924. eCollection 2018.

Online interest regarding violent attacks, gun control, and gun purchase: A causal analysis.

Author information

Department of Public Health Sciences, Health Informatics and Analytics Program, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, United States of America.
School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom.
Universidad de los Andes (Uniandes), Facultad de administracion, Bogota, Colombia.
Department of Public Health Sciences, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America.
Quantitative Research, Idalion Capital Group, London, United Kingdom.



Increased interest about gun ownership and gun control are oftentimes driven by informational shocks in a common factor, namely violent attacks, and the perceived need for higher levels of safety. A causal depiction of the societal interest around violent attacks, gun control and gun purchase, both synchronous and over time, should be a stepping stone for designing future strategies regarding the safety concerns of the U.S. population.


Examine the causal relationships between unexpected increases in population interest about violent attacks, gun control, and gun purchase.


Relationships among online searches for information about violent attacks, gun control, and gun purchase occurring between 2004 and 2017 in the U.S. are explained through a novel structural vector autoregressive time series model to account for simultaneous causal relationships.


More than 20% of the stationary variability in each of gun control and gun purchase interest can be explained by the remaining factors. Gun control interest appears to be caused, in part, by violent attacks informational shocks, yet violent attacks, although impactful, have a lesser effect than gun control debate on long-term gun ownership interests.


The form in which gun control has been introduced in public debate may have further increased gun ownership interest. Reactive gun purchase interest may be an unintended side effect of gun control debate. U.S. policymakers may need to rethink current approaches to promotion of gun control, and whether societal policy debate without policy outcomes could be having unintended effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

German Molina is director, partner, and owner of Idalion Capital, a company dedicated to financial advisory with a focus on emerging market foreign exchange trading. He is not a salaried individual and has not received any compensation from Idalion Capital related to this (or any other) academic research. He is not contractually obligated in any way to Idalion Capital with regards to his academic research work. His continued academic publishing agenda is driven by his personal and academic interest in the topics, rather than as part of any employment (or companyrelated) activity. There are no patents, products in development or marketed products to declare. This does not alter our adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

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