I’ve been watching in disbelief as yet another mass shooting makes the headlines Stateside. Now I know what you’re thinking. We’ve heard it all and I’m sure you’re wondering why the hell an Irish tech site is wading into the debate. Well, technology is intrinsically involved in politics these days. The election of Trump as President of the United States came amid accusations of Russian influence in Facebook advertising, though those accusations are now being questioned. When something horrible like the Florida shooting takes place, it transcends borders and enters everyone’s sitting room through smartphones, TVs and laptops.
Role of Social Media Prior to the Florida Shooting
Social media was also involved in the Florida shooting which saw 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz gun down and kill 17 people in his former school. Five months before the gunman acted, he commented on a YouTube video stating he would become “a professional school shooter”.
Role of Social Media After the Florida Shooting
With this YouTube comment missed, Cruz carried out his heinous act. Trump carried out his presidential duty and issued a statement:
Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
Even in a moment where something so horrible has happened, Trump managed to use the situation to deflect things he’s directly involved in. If you thought that was bad, even more stunning was this tweet:
So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018
While Trump came dangerously close to blaming those involved in the Florida shooting, he did stray across another line. By linking mental illness to such an act of violence, Trump has demonised mental illness in a time when we are starting to be more understanding of how important it is to be honest and open about these things.
So, with social media giving us an incredible insight into the brain of Trump, what can we find out about the general public?
Google’s Insight Into the Thoughts of a Nation
Google Trends is an incredible website powered by what people are really searching online. A few years ago, a thought emerged that from analysing search trends, Google could even tell if people were pregnant or sick before they worked it out for themselves. People type things into Google Search that they dare not utter to friends and family, so that’s the best place to check the pulse of a nation.
Following the latest shooting in Florida, which incidentally is the eighteenth time a gun has been discharged on a school campus in 2018, a nation took to Google in an effort to understand what’s going on.
The search engine provider has created a fascinating page dedicated to what people have been searching in the days that followed the Florida shooting.
Top Questions About Gun Control
- What is gun control?
- What can I do about gun control?
- What did Obama do for gun control?
- How many school shootings happened in 2018?
- Why we need gun control?
In the week that followed the shooting, the number one searched term was “what is gun control’. This surely suggests that people are starting to think more about taking an approach deemed successful by Australia, Norway, Japan and the UK; ban high-powered weapons and heavily regulate the rest. In fact, the whole argument is brilliantly summarised by Australian comedian Jim Jefferies:
When the comedians are making the ost sense, you know you have a problem.
People thinking it’s time to act is supported by the second most searched term on the list being “what can I do about gun control”. This is followed by “what did Obama do for gun control”, indicating a large proportion of Americans are suffering from ‘buyer’s remorse’.
Many have been fact checking the ’18 school shootings in 2018′ which is why we carefully worded how we mention that above. In eight of those incidents, noone was hurt of killed.
Finally, American’s are loading up on new kinds of ammunition and searching for “why we need gun control”.
Gun Control or Gun Shopping?
Google Trends also cleverly positions search data for “gun control” and “gun shop” over the past twelve months versus the week after the Florida shooting.
Search Data for Past Year
Search Data Since the Shooting
Just look at that swing. The vast majority of states were searching for gun shops in the past twelve months without much interest in gun control. That’s been flipped on it’s head with almost every state now more interested in gun control. Except Kentucky, determined to be the Roscommon of America.
Emma Gonzalez is the Poster-child of a Young Gun Control Movement
While the search data from inside the US is fascinating, also interesting is the global trending terms. Emma Gonzalez, a survivor from the Florida shooting, has appeared on nearly every news outlet around the world, delivering a passionate speech demanding gun-law reform and calling BS on Trump and his government:
Gonzalez has given many hope that reform might be possible. Also trending is “march for our lives”, a movement of children and families marching to Washington DC on 24 March demanding gun safety. I was shocked to learn details of what school children in the US are drilled with. They practice situations where a shooter is coming into the classroom. I was worried about forgetting my homework:
When I was in school, I was worried about the homework I forgot to do. This kid is doing drills on how to deal with an active shooter. It's just mind-boggling that the US hasn't done anything to control gun ownership yet. https://t.co/3JkVCXu67u
— Martin Meany (@martinmeany) February 19, 2018
While I would like to just sit back and ignore what’s going on in the US regarding gun laws, thanks to social media it’s an international story. While the impact isn’t directly felt on these shores, it’s impossible to ignore that this is happening in the developed world. Thanks to Google’s insights there would appear to be some sort of light on the horizon, but only time will tell if that’s actually a real dawn.