Using time series analysis to uncover why gun sales increase after mass shootings

In this podcast episode, Maurizio Porfiri, Institute Professor at NYU Tandon and member of NYU CUSP, speaks about his latest academic research in which he is using data science to uncover why sales of guns in the USA increase after a mass shooting event. 

Throughout his research, his team “applied techniques from different fields to understand if this correlation would beget, somehow, a form of causation, or if it would simply be a correlation between two variables, which we know may not be as indicative of a causal mechanism,” said Porfiri. Their method is best described as a “multi-scaled” understanding of how individual people act, as well as that of a collective nation. 

While Porfiri and his team “do not have a gun ownership dataset, do not know where the guns are… or when they are bought,” they have been able to identify “a quite strong trend upward… if I estimate from the background check, how many guns are coming to the country, I can tell you that a couple of years back we reached the number of guns that have passed the number of people in the US. The number is going up and up and up — the trend is upward” said Porfiri.