Mass Shootings and Public Support for Gun Control

Forthcoming, British Journal of Political Science

62 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2017 Last revised: 25 Mar 2017

Ben J Newman

Benjamin J Newman

Todd Hartman

Sheffield Methods Institute

Date Written: March 21, 2017


The recent spate of mass public shootings in the U.S. 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, we argue 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, we demonstrate that increased proximity to a mass shooting is associated with heightened public support for stricter gun control. Importantly, we 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, we replicate our core result using panel data. Together, our results suggest a process of context-driven policy feedback between existing gun laws, egregious gun violence, and demand for policy change.

Keywords: Mass Public Shootings, Gun Control, Contextual Effects, Focusing Events, Threat

Suggested Citation

Newman, Ben J and Hartman, Todd, Mass Shootings and Public Support for Gun Control (March 21, 2017). Forthcoming, British Journal of Political Science. Available at SSRN: or

Benjamin J Newman

Benjamin J Newman ( email )

Stony Brook, 11794-4392
United States

Todd Hartman (Contact Author)

Sheffield Methods Institute ( email )

219 Portobello Street
The University of Sheffield
Sheffield, S Yorkshire S1 4DP
United Kingdom
+44 114 222 7122 (Phone)


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