Following the devastating news that 27 people, including 20 children, had been killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, many immediately took to their Facebook and Twitter pages to lament what they see as the U.S.’s frightening lack of gun control. In New York, #guncontrol trended on Twitter throughout the afternoon, with everyone from casual observers to celebrities to pundits weighing in on how stricter gun laws could have stymied the actions of the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Many also targeted the National Rifle Association’s Twitter and Facebook pages as a venue for their rage. “The @NRA is on Twitter & they read their replies if you have questions for them about their lobbying, etc,” suggested comedian Rob Delaney. “How much more suffering & loss will it take before we better regulate the sale of arms in our country? Let @NRA know how you feel,” urged actress Susan Sarandon. “The lives of those children are on your heads, @NRA. Stop fighting all gun control. Hope you can sleep tonight,” added VentureBeat copy editor Jason Wilson. The NRA declined to comment to Salon.
Posts began popping up on blogs across the web demanding that Americans galvanize to turn the tragedy into a movement for better gun control. “Fuck You Guns,” wrote Jezebel in a rousing piece. “President Obama, Today Is the Day to Politicize This Tragedy,” reads a post on Slate formatted as a letter to the president, begging for him to act on gun control. “Time to talk about gun control,” argued a Washington Post editorial. Even Mayor Bloomberg added his voice to the fray, urging President Obama to speak out for better gun control in a statement.
Gun control petitions also began appearing on Petitions.WhiteHouse.gov, the official portal for political petitions. “Set a date and time to have a conversation about gun policy in the United States,” begged one, with close to 5,000 signatures. “Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress,” reads another, which has close to 10,000. If a petition receives 25,000 signatures, it is immediately put into a queue to be reviewed by the White House, guaranteeing at least some small amount of attention.
President Obama delivered a personal speech during which he appeared to tear up. But viewers were angry at the calculated decision not to even utter the words “gun control.” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “There is, I am sure, will be, rather, a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I do not think today is that day.”
But across social networks, the answer seemed clear: if not now, when?