President Obama speaks out on Twitter about preventing gun violence. Credit: Twitter: @whitehouse
Over three days, the issue of gun control dominated Twitter,
unprecedented in terms of numbers of people and the length of time. The
network is no stranger to political topics, but the outpouring of tweets
following last week's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school
differed from those after previous shootings, such as last summer's
attack in a Colorado movie theater.
A new report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in
Journalism showed that gun control tweets held steady at close to 30
percent of all U.S. tweets over a three-day period, from the afternoon
of the Dec. 14 massacre through noon on Monday, Dec. 17.
Never before had gun control so dominated the conversation on Twitter. For instance, after the shooting outside
a Tucson, Ariz., mall in January 2011 that seriously wounded Rep.
Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others, tweets about gun laws
represented only 3 percent of Twitter chatter in the U.S., according to
And unlike social media debates of the past, this one was decidedly in favor of stricter gun control laws.
On Twitter, the gap was 3-to-1: Sixty-four percent of the tweets called
for reform, versus 21 percent that defended gun rights and 14 percent
that was neutral, Pew said. "Don't pray, change your looney gun laws,"
tweeted @Neiley83, whose view was shared by many on Twitter.
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Tweets counted as defending gun rights tended to make the point that
more laws would not solve the problem. "You really think a gun regulation
bill is going to stop criminals? Hate to break it to you, but they're
not afraid of breaking the law," tweeted @NicoletFinger.
Pew also found that gun control tweets outpaced tweets of sympathy and
prayers by about 3 percent. No other aspect of the event — from
President Barack Obama's public speeches to mental health issues to the
assessment of the media's performance in covering the story — amounted
to more than 8 percent. [See also: How to Avoid Connecticut Shooting Charity Scams.]
The gun lobbyists and their supporters remained silent. As a matter of
policy, the NRA stopped tweeting as soon as the news of the shooting
broke and did not resume until Tuesday of this week.
"Out of respect for the families
, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning,
prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting," the NRA
said in a statement.
The NRA scheduled a press conference for Dec. 21 in
Washington at 10:45 a.m. with live stream on nra.org and on the NRA
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