NYU Tandon professor applies scientific models to firearm issue

From brooklyneagle.com

The debate surrounding gun violence and gun control constantly references the perceived encroachment upon citizens’ rights to bear arms, as proven in the recent Supreme Court decision striking down New York firearm licensing laws. However, information about firearm ownership and its relation to crime and violence requires “highly-resolved” data on firearm possession, and without a federal registry to comprehensively show information about who owns guns, there is no established measurement of firearm prevalence.

Maurizio Porfiri, an author of more than 350 journals and the Director of the Dynamical Systems Laboratory & Institute Professor at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, together with his team takes two available sources, background checks per capita and suicides committed with a firearm in the respective state, and predicts trends in firearm prevalence.

The study “A spatiotemporal model of firearm ownership in the United States,” in the Cell Press journal Patterns, details how by calibrating their results with yearly survey data, the team determined that the two proxies can be simultaneously considered to draw precise information regarding firerarm ownership.

Dr. Porfiri’s co-authors Roni Barak Ventura, a post-doctoral researcher at Porfiri’s Dynamical Systems Lab, and Manuel Ruiz Marin of the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, Spain, also contributed to the study.

“There is very limited knowledge on when and where guns are acquired in the country, and even less is known regarding future ownership trends,” said Porfiri.

“Prior studies have largely relied on the use of a single, select proxy to make some inference of gun prevalence, typically within simple correlation schemes. Our results show that there is a need to com- bine proxies of sales and violence to draw precise inferences on firearm prevalence.”

He added that most research aggregates the measure counts within states and does not consider interference between states or spill-over effects.

Porfiri, Barak-Ventura and Marin found that while media coverage of firearms is usually positively associated with ownership, they also discovered that a prevalence of firearms is a predictor for mass shootings. The study attempts to triangulate media coverage, mass shootings, and firearm ownership and any casual associations overlooked when examining the phenomena individually.

“The potential link be- tween mass shootings and firearm purchases is a unique contribution of our model,” said Ruiz Marin. “Such a link can only be detected by scratching the surface on the exact gun counts in the country.”

“We combined publicly available data variables into one measure of ownership. Because it has a spatial component, we could also track gun flow from one state to another based on political and cultural similarities,” said Barak-Ventura, adding that the spatial component of the work is novel.

“Prior studies looked at a correlation of two variables such as increasing background checks and an increase in gun violence.”

Porfiri, Barak-Ventura and Marin are examining how to employ their model to calculate the most effective gun policy, and how gun ownership and violence is affected by legislation.

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