Media Coverage and Firearm Acquisition in the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting

Maurizio Porfiri, Ph.D.
Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
Tandon School of Engineering
New York University
Mon., Oct. 7, 2:00 pm
Milner Executive Boardroom (0560 MEK)
Free & Open to the Public
Abstract: We are experiencing an unprecedented surge of mass shooting events in the U.S. These events often elicit heated discussion among the public, polarizing opinions on firearm control, as seen and amplified in the media. Previous studies have demonstrated a strong, positive correlation between the frequency of mass shootings and increased firearm prevalence in the U.S. We present an information-theoretic framework, which goes beyond correlational analysis to unravel causal links between mass shootings, media coverage on firearm control, and firearm prevalence. Using empirical data covering from 1999 to 2017, we demonstrate directional information transfer between the time-series of media coverage and the number of background checks, suggesting that media coverage may increase public fear of more stringent firearm control and, in turn, drive firearm prevalence. In others words, people might rush to buy guns because they fear that new regulations may come into effect and their right to acquire a weapon be challenged.

Bio: Maurizio Porfiri is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at New York University Tandon School of Engineering. He received M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech, in 2000 and 2006; a ‘‘Laurea’’ in Electrical Engineering (with honors) and a Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from the University of Rome ‘‘La Sapienza’’ and the University of Toulon (dual degree program), in 2001 and 2005, respectively. He is engaged in conducting and supervising research on dynamical systems theory, multiphysics modeling, and underwater robotics. Maurizio Porfiri is the author of more than 250 journal publications and the recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER award. He has been included in the ‘‘Brilliant 10’’ list of Popular Science and his research featured in major media outlets, including CNN, NPR, Scientific American, and Discovery Channel. Other significant recognitions include invitations to the Frontiers of Engineering Symposium and the Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium organized by National Academy of Engineering; the Outstanding Young Alumnus award by the College of Engineering of Virginia Tech; the ASME Gary Anderson Early Achievement Award; the ASME DSCD Young Investigator Award; and the ASME C.D. Mote, Jr. Early Career Award.