Collateral crises of gun preparation and the COVID-19 pandemic: An infodemiology study.


In the past, national emergencies in the United States have resulted in increased gun preparation (ie, purchasing new guns or removing guns from storage); in turn, these gun actions have effected increases in firearm injuries and deaths.

The aim of this paper was to assess the extent to which interest in gun preparation has increased amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic using data from Google searches related to purchasing and cleaning guns.

We fit an Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) model over Google search data from January 2004 up to the week that US President Donald Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency. We used this model to forecast Google search volumes, creating a counterfactual of the number of gun preparation searches we would expect if the COVID-19 pandemic had not occurred, and reported observed deviations from this counterfactual.

Google searches related to preparing guns have surged to unprecedented levels, approximately 40% higher than previously reported spikes following the Sandy Hook, CT and Parkland, FL shootings and 158% (95% CI 73-270) greater than would be expected if the COVID-19 pandemic had not occurred. In absolute terms, approximately 2.1 million searches related to gun preparation were performed over just 34 days. States severely affected by COVID-19 appear to have some of the greatest increases in the number of searches.
Theodore L. Caputi
Theodore L. Caputi
Economics & Health Researcher

My research interests include public health, health innovation, and health care.