After the Parkland shooting, the gun control debate isn't fading away

After the Parkland shooting, the gun control debate isn't fading away
From Mashable - February 19, 2018

Three of the largest mass shootings in modern American history happened in the past two years, but that does not mean Americans are always thinking about gun control.

In fact, data shows that with so many mass shootings taking place, Americans move on to other concerns within several days after each event. But after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida killed 17 people, something different is going on.

The credit may belong to the power of high schoolers to capture national attention in the absence of leadership from high-level officials.

By taking a look at Google trends, you can get a decent sense of how the gun control debate ebbs and flows after a mass shooting, including after the Feb. 14 Parkland event. The Parkland shooting is already proving to be an exception to the rule.

Parkland is the ninth-largest mass shooting in modern American history. It's one of the largest to have ever happened in a public school, behind Virginia Tech in 2007 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. And yet Google searches for gun control, which spiked after the February 14th shooting, remain elevated almost a week after the massacrewhich is typically when these conversations drop off.

Nate Silver attributes the rise to young students speaking out after the massacre, who have spoken so eloquently and forcefully in favor of gun control that their speeches have gone viral. They have even managed to get gun control onto Sunday cable news shows.

There may other reasons for the sustained interest, including a holiday weekend during which this topic has managed to dominate the news cycle, and a president who inflames the debate with insulting, seemingly self-destructive tweets.

Either way, here's a look at how Parkland measures up to five of the the largest mass shootings in modern American history, including Las Vegas, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Sutherland Springs.

1. Las Vegas

64-year old Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured over 500 at an outdoor country music festival near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on Oct. 1, 2017. This remains the largest mass shooting in modern American history. Yet, Google Trends shows that it only took a week for searches about gun control to decline to nearly their pre-massacre levels.

Compare that to the first five days after Parkland.

Two weeks after Vegas, it appeared that the gun control debate had disappeared from the internet altogether.

At the time of the Mandalay Bay shooting, there were other issues competing for our national attention, including the Mueller investigation and Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 and also devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands devastated. Still, the precipitous drop-off is noteworthy.

2. Pulse Nightclub Massacre

On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed and 50 were injured when a gunman opened fire inside the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, making it the second-largest mass shooting in modern American history.

Unlike Vegas, it took about two weeks before the gun control conversation effectively sizzled on the internet.

Pulse was likely able to sustain our interest for longer than Las Vegas for multiple reasons: a less crowded news cycle, which gives people more time to process traumatic events, fewer competing scandals (no Muller investigation), and a president who was actually responsive to the demands of gun control advocates.

On June 20th, the Republican-controlled Senate voted down four gun control measures after Obama and fellow Democrats made a renewed legislative push.

3. Sutherland Springs

4. Virginia Tech

5. Newtown


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