Only 11 months ago was one of the most shocking and heartbreaking events the current high-school generation has lived through–and the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history (after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre). The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 ended with the deaths of seven adults and 20 students at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Five months earlier on July 20, 2012, at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, 12 people were killed in a similar shooting.
Because of these events, people all over the country, including President Barack Obama, began a passionate movement for increased gun control in the nation. A change in gun restrictions, as well as to the second amendment, which secures “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”, seemed inevitable as people blamed America’s easy gun ownership process for the tragic deaths in Newtown and Aurora.
Soon after the Newtown shooting, the hashtag “GunControlNow” became a trending topic on Twitter as people took to social media sites in order to share their thoughts on gun control, spreading the movement dramatically throughout the nation and the world. Tweets included statements for both sides of the argument.
A tweet from Piers Morgan on the day of the Newtown shooting said: “It’s not ‘anti-American’ to want mass shootings to stop in the United States. It’s ‘pro-American’. #GunControlNow”, while many others argued the other side: that stricter laws regarding gun rights would not stop tragic events such as the Newtown and Aurora shootings from occurring in the future. As the passion grew, gun control soon became a widely-discussed topic in the media.
In April 2013, the Senate prepared for its vote about gun control legislation, and the increasing push towards gun reform was lead by “the leader of the free world”, President Barack Obama. On April 8, 2013, in a speech given in front of Newtown families and streamed all over the media, Obama said: “If there’s just one thing we can do to keep one father from having to bury his child, isn’t that worth fighting for?”
While Obama spoke emotionally to the people of America on a topic he was very passionate about, other media outlets provided viewers with different perspectives. Saturday Night Live, a live television sketch comedy show that often makes fun of modern politics, performed a skit about the gun reform bill in which they highlighted the point that serious gun reforms would be very hard to legitimize and enforce. The popular TV show focused on obvious flaws in the argument, specifically the idea that there would be no way a gun control law could give people the feeling of constant security they so passionately desired.
Ultimately, the Senate voted against gun control legislation, and while the topic died down in the government, the public kept discussions and opinions about gun control alive through the media, especially on social media websites.
Still, Obama provided his opinion through Twitter, often using the hashtag “WhatWillItTake”. On August 20, 2013, Obama posted the tweet, “Congress has waited too long to take action to protect our communities from gun violence #WhatWillItTake,” along with an image stating “Tomorrow is too late. #WhatWillItTake for Congress to make gun violence prevention a priority?”
As time passes, the discussion continues to present itself through the media. Last week, on November 1, 2013, a shooting took place at the Los Angeles International Airport, killing a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer and once again sparking the conversation of gun reform in America. While advocates used this event as more proof that change is necessary, critics responded just as strongly.
In an opinion article for CNN, former flight attendant Tiffany Hawk wrote: “[Arming TSA officers] would simply be about protecting people from something that is everywhere in America: gun violence — yes, at airports, and also at schools, at movie theaters, and malls….To fight our justified fear, some will undoubtedly push for more guns and others for fewer. One thing is for certain — we will continually be forced to debate this. I only hope that we can find some common ground before the next reminder.”
Of all the shootings that have occurred in America, the Newtown shooting was the one that brought such a dramatic emotional response that people began a heated national debate over gun control legislation. As shown through the media coverage of gun reform politics, from that event 11 months ago to today, the media allows the public to get involved in a political process by sharing support, criticism and thoughts about a topic such as this one. And even after the discussion of a political topic slows down within the central government, the media provides people with a way to keep the discussion alive.