School Shootings, Protests, and the Gun Culture in the U.S.


Scholars document that attitudes toward guns and gun policy reflect deeply entrenched cultures that overlap with ideological affiliations and party politics. Does exposure to dramatic events such as school shootings and protests regarding gun control affect these patterns? I first argue that school shootings are significant triggering events that will become associated with attitudes favoring gun restrictions. The second argument holds that rising protests by one’s opponent can be transformed into mobilizing opportunity by a focal group. To examine these ideas, I combine information from a national exit poll data on respondents’ attitudes on gun policy with state-level information on the counts of recent school shootings, gun-policy protest, existing laws restricting gun use, and membership in the National Rifle Association. To minimize bias, the analysis of public opinion applies Coarsened Exact Matching techniques followed by analysis using mixed-level logit. The second analysis uses data on gun control protests, school shootings, and NRA memberships in states over time. Results show that conservatives (but not liberals) exposed to more school shootings favor more restrictive gun policies. The second, longitudinal analysis found that there is a significant interaction effect between increases in school shootings and gun control protests that diminishes NRA memberships significantly.