When a lone gunman killed 12 people and
injured 58 more inside a crowded Colorado movie theater on July 20th,
Americans were horrified by the news. In a matter of days, the event reinvigorated the highly contentious debate surrounding
the issue of gun control and the Second Amendment. The increase was obvious on social media, where there was a drastic increase in Twitter mentions from
politicians and thousands of related tweets sent to politicians.
The media began connecting politicians and gun
control in a profound way. Measuring news articles that use the term
“gun control” in connection to state and federal legislators, we
see a sudden spike immediately following the incident in Aurora, CO.
Similarly. many congressional
representatives from both the House and the Senate took the
opportunity to participate in a Twitter dialogue about guns after the
shooting. OhMyGov analytics found that the number of gun-related tweets sent
by congressmen in July was more than double the amount sent
during any previous month this year.
Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert
Menendez, both from New Jersey, and Illinois Representative Mike
Quigley, all Democrats, sent the highest volume of gun-related
tweets. As is traditional for the Democratic platform, all three
favored measures to limit firearms sales, criticizing the powerful
National Rifle Association lobby and the scant mention of gun control
during the past two sessions of congress.
While representatives were quick to
tweet about firearms after the tragedy, individual citizens were even
more vocal. The volume of tweets directed (either as @mentions or
by name) to congress by personal Twitter accounts was staggering.
OhMyGov reviewed the number of mentions from the first of July
through Wednesday, August 8th, and discovered a profound
leap in the days after the shooting.
Most interesting, however, is the fact
that of the top five Twitter users talking about guns, four were
self-identified conservatives lobbying in favor of the Second
Amendment and against measures to limit overall sales or weapon
Though many users did take the shooting as an opportunity to
call for increased gun control, the most persistent voices were in
direct opposition to that goal.It seems that the United
Nations' Arms Trade Treaty, which was debated throughout July at a
global UN conference, may have fueled some of the fervor behind these
Among less prolific Twitter users, the debate
appeared to be more balanced.
Michael McGurk tweeted to Senator Marco
politicians will tighten gun control laws so maniacs can't get their
hands on weapons so easily. Or is that a pipe dream?”
while another constituent, Jstance, wrote, “Senator
the president will try and use this to ban guns. Please do not let
him do that.”
Many of the tweets calling for gun
control mentioned Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, chair of
the Democratic National Committee. Twitter user Cdoolz13 wrote,
this will spark new talks on sustainable, sensible gun control. Maybe
could lead the charge?”
said simply, “@DWStweets
please react by introducing strict gun control legislation.”
although the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin led to a small
increase in gun-related posts, it was mild compared to the on-going dialogue
generated by the Colorado shooting.