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Newtown Shooting Sparked a Gun Control Debate Online When Other Shootings Did Not

BY Sam Roudman | Friday, December 21 2012

The Pew Research Center’s Project on Excellence in Journalism says in a report released Thursday that gun control legislation is being discussed on social media in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings with far greater frequency than it was in the wake of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, or the shooting in Tucson that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.:

On both blogs and Twitter, the gun policy discussion accounted for almost 30% of the social media conversation examined by PEJ, exceeding even prayers and expressions of sympathy in the three days following the December 14 massacre that left 26 dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. And, within that discussion, calls for stricter gun control measures exceeded defenses of current gun laws and policies by more than two to one.

According to an analysis released Thursday by PEJ, discussion of gun laws accounted for only 3 percent of social media conversation after the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, with political discourse and “straight facts” accounting for the majority of discussion. When Trayvon Martin's death became an active social media topic in the weeks following his death, only 7 percent of the conversation focused on gun laws.

It’s unclear yet how or if this conversation will manifest as policy, but there does appear to be more public support for gun laws nowthan there was before the tragedy, and the White House as well a number of senators have signaled an interest in new legislation.

Although it’s unclear from the report how the Newtown response exactly compares to other spree shootings this year, such as Aurora, Colorado and Oak Creek, Wisconsin, neither provoked as decisive a pivot towards legislative action as much as Newtown has this last week.

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