Mass shootings and public support for gun control


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.

British Journal of Political Science