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NRA Was MIA On Facebook in Aurora Aftermath

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, July 23 2012

The National Rifle Association's Facebook page appeared to be unavailable from late Saturday night to Monday morning in the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colo.

TechPresident called the NRA for comment about the page Monday morning, while the page was still unavailable. Officials there didn't return our call for comment. They returned to Facebook, however, within a matter of hours after our call. A Facebook spokesman referred all request for comment to the NRA.

In the past, groups looking to take vengeance on brands or organizations did so by drumming up a posse to report the Facebook page as offensive, triggering Facebook's reporting process and possibly pulling the page down. It's also possible to set one's brand page private. Requests for clarification from Facebook about other ways a page might become unavailable were not answered. We don't know exactly why the NRA's page was gone for a period of days — only that we couldn't see it, and we weren't the only ones.

The organization's page is now "liked" by 1.5 million users, some of whom went to other forums over the weekend looking for the NRA's stance in the wake of the Aurora incident. Twenty-four-year-old former student James Holmes is accused of using an arsenal of weapons, including an assault rifle available thanks to the 2004 lapse of a ban on assault weapons, during a shooting spree in which 70 people were shot and 12 killed. Gun owners were looking for "leadership" on how to handle this situation; some wrote in online forumsband were disappointed to find the NRA was not active on social media to provide it.

In the Calguns forum, calling itself a home for California's "firearm community," a user called RyanAnchors noted Saturday evening that the page was deleted.

"The NRA page on Facebook had like 2,000,000 'likes,'" he wrote, including a link to the site. "Why is it missing? Does anyone have a way to tell how long it has been deleted or disabled? That page is an important source of 2A information and discussion..."

Early Sunday morning another user, SanPedroShooter, commented:

I have been waiting for some leadership from NRA on this issue, and nothing....

While I've been seeing lots of movement from individuals, myself included, to circle the wagons not a peep from the NRA. Not even an email. And now there FB page is 'gone'?

I can only assume that a tactical retreat is the best way to get out in front of this thing, but I put a lot of faith in the NRA to do what is politically right, which is sometimes not the same as morally or ethically right.

They have one job, protect the 2A, and along with prayers for the innocent blood, I am praying they know what they are doing.

User dantood posted: "I would be very disappointed if it turns out they voluntarily suspended their account. This is exactly what the anti-rights crowd wants and pulling their page will look to others like they feel some culpability. Hell, it looks that way to me. If they don't have the courage of their convictions when the chips are down (to play off their "all-in" meme) how strongly do they really believe they are right."

Another commenter, NYsteveZ, wrote "IF they pulled their own page because of stupid comments, I am disappointed. Im pretty sure you can set up a page or group where nobody can comment. Taking down a page connected to 2 MILLION followers is like cutting off the nose to spite the face-Stupid."

Think Progress had noted that the American Rifleman publication, which is associated with the NRA, had deleted links to its Facebook and Twitter feeds from its homepage after an ill-timed Twitter post came under criticism.

The last post by the NRA was July 19, featuring a video with NRA board member Ronnie Barrett. Some of the comments on that video, up until Friday 5:12 p.m., make reference to the shooting in Aurora. There is no way to post on the wall of the page.

On the other hand, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, with 20,570 likes, updated its Facebook page cover photo to one that invokes the victims of the shooting and calls for action from Congress. The organization's page also played host to regular updates over the weekend. Facebook page insights suggest that interaction and likes for the page went up sharply at the end of last week, with 34 new likes in the week before, but more than 1,400 new likes by the end of last week. MoveOn also sent out an e-mail to supporters, urging them to support a petition on started by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Meanwhile, insights for the NRA's Facebook page suggest that an unusually low number of people were talking about or discussing the organization in the seven-day period including Friday, July 20.