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After Shooting in Newtown, An Immediate Outcry Online: "Today is the Day"

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, December 14 2012

Photo: Flickr/Architect of the US Capitol

As people all over the United States struggle to understand the aftermath of a horrific shooting Friday that left 27 dead, including 20 children, calls emerged online for more gun control and new attention to mental health programs.

A lone gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Friday morning and opened fire, becoming responsible for the death of 27 people, 20 of them children, according to reports. The gunman is also dead, officials say.

On Twitter, several users with large followings asked their followers to donate to The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The campaign's site appeared to buckle under pressure and was available only intermittently in the morning on Friday. It has since been more normally accessible from techPresident's outpost in San Francisco.

The Brady Campaign has created a petition site, We Are Better Than This, billed as a space to simultaneously offer condolences to the families of the killed or injured and to make "a commitment to support a change."

It was just one of dozens of actions unfolding online as people moved to take immediate action in the wake of the latest gun-related tragedy to strike the United States this year.

People also started new petitions at the White House's "We the People" petition site. Rather than focusing on guns, one petitioner focused on mental health with a plea to "Make Mental Health a National Emergency." That was just one of seven petitions created at the White house site Friday relating to the Newtown incident. The rest of them appealed either for a renewed national conversation about gun control, or appealed for stricter federal gun control laws. This petition asking the Obama administration to introduce new bill to enact stricter gun control laws so far has the most traction with 9,888 signatures as of Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, many groups used Twitter to organize a vigil outside the White house to counter White House spokesman Jay Carney's statement at a news conference Friday that "today is not the day" to discuss gun violence policy.

#TodayIsTheDay emerged as a hashtag on Twitter, with the New Organizing Institute asking the public to "Come to the @WhiteHouse at 4.30 PM to tell @barackobama #TodayIsTheDay to lead on gun violence prevention."

On Twitter, the conversation on gun violence, and whether more controls over the availability of guns would put a stop to the kind of catastrophe that took place on Friday, proliferated through the hashtags such as #GunControlNow, #2nd Amendment, and #gettheguns.

The National Rifle Association was conspicuously silent on Twitter. Meanwhile, one of its members very publicly resigned from the organization, protesting its policy positions on Facebook.

Many members of Congress expressed their shock and condelences via Facebook, with a couple of Democrats, Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, and Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, calling on the Obama administration to take some action online as well as in public remarks offline.

During an emotional statement Friday afternoon, Obama briefly mentioned that some action had to be taken "regardless of the politics."

The would seem to address groups like Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which launched a campaign during election season, and which is still going, called Demand A Plan, which asks the president to come up with a specific plan to address gun violence.

with Miranda Neubauer contributing

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