Police tape was still blowing in the breeze Tuesday in Washington’s Navy Yard when conversation turned from the shooting that claimed 12 innocent lives to gun control. The shift was not unexpected — debate over gun laws in the United States naturally spikes immediately after mass shootings. But, as history has shown, the conversation will inevitably die out within a few months.
The story of the boom-and-bust of national interest in the gun debate can be documented using Google Trends. In the past six years, the popularity of the search term “gun laws” in the U.S. remained steady, save for in the immediate aftermath of mass shootings.
The lone spike early on, in 2007, coincided with that April’s shooting at Virginia Tech, in which 32 people were killed. The slight uptick in November 2009 coincided with the Fort Hood shooting, in which an Army major fatally shot 13 people and wounded more than 30 others on a military base in Texas. The spike in January 2011 follows the shooting in Tucson that killed six people and severely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head at point-blank range.
A later jump in searches, this one larger than earlier ones, coincided with the shooting in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater that claimed the lives of 12 people and injured 70 others. The biggest spike on the chart, starting on December 2012 and lasting well into the New Year, was a result of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Conn., in which 20 children and six teachers died.
Search volume for the term “gun laws” during this time was its relative highest in Alaska, Arizona, and Wyoming, states with some of the country’s most lenient gun laws.
The search term “gun control” follows a similar trajectory, but saw a bigger spike this spring when several pieces of gun-control legislation reached the Senate floor, and then failed. Interest peaked again in Wyoming, as well as in Idaho and West Virginia, states with similarly lax gun legislation.
The most revealing chart, however, may be this one, which shows the birth and growth of what the term “gun debate” means today in the United States. In 2004, people googled “gun debate” to learn more about an actual debate: a presidential debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry on domestic policy, in which the pair sparred over gun legislation. Today, people who Google “gun debate” are searching for something completely different: What a string of devastating mass shootings means for the nation’s gun laws.
What We're Following See More »
Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.
"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."
"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.