Aug 13, 2019

The mass shooting news cycle is still short-lived

Data: Google; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Google searches about the El Paso shooting surged more than any other recent mass shooting — but the horror, outrage and interest toward the murder of innocent lives never seems to last long enough to provoke much change.

Why it matters: Mass shootings have become more common, but fading public interest relieves pressure on lawmakers to address the underlying issues.

By the numbers: Google trends measures search interest on a scale of 0 to 100, with zero being the lowest amount of search interest possible and 100 being the most.

  • Search interest ranked higher than 5 out of 100 only lasted for two or three weeks for most shootings. Sandy Hook was an exception, with 10 non-consecutive weeks of Google interest higher than 5.

Key takeaways: The bigger shooting events are loosely correlated with more search interest. 

  • Search interest in the term "gun control" spiked close to shootings targeting schools with kids involved.
  • "I believe people think more action will be taken for gun control when children are the victims because their death strikes an even deeper emotional chord among the population," said Holly Schroth, a senior lecturer at the Haas School of Business who specializes in social psychology.

The big picture: 40% of Americans surveyed by Gallup this year said that they were "very dissatisfied" with the nation's gun laws — up from 21% in 2008.

  • Since 2009, the share of people who have said that gun sale laws should be more strict has risen from 44% to 60%.
  • Guns even became the top 2020 issue following the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohios, Axios found. But the fervor doesn't tend to last.

What to watch: Searches for "mass shooting" have been steadily growing beyond the spikes that immediately follow attacks.

Go deeper: The Trump news cycle of 2018 in one chart

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Analysis shows Google search interest in mass shootings lasts about 3 weeks

A woman paying her respects at a makeshift memorial for the victims in El Paso. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

A new analysis by the Washington Post finds that online search interest in mass shootings typically lasts for 3 weeks after the event before tapering out. The Post's figures match Axios' findings that Google interest in mass shootings only lasts about 2–3 weeks.

Driving the news: President Trump assured the head of the National Rifle Association on Wednesday that universal background check expansions aren't on the table, following 2 mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, The Atlantic first reported and the Post confirmed. This is not the first time Trump has expressed interest in passing gun control measures after a mass shooting, only to walk it back after pressure from the NRA and members of his base.

Go deeperArrowAug 21, 2019

What the deadliest mass shootings have in common

Data: U.S. Mass Shootings, 1982-2019: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The deadliest mass shootings in recent history have had one thing in common: the perpetrator used an assault rifle.

Why it matters: These weapons possess an incredible amount of killing power, and amplify the destructive will of the person who carries out an attack. Nine people died and 27 were injured in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio in an attack that lasted 32 seconds. The killer used an AR-15 style assault rifle.

Go deeperArrowSep 7, 2019

After Texas shootings, 2020 Democrats push for gun control measures

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks during the 2020 Public Service Forum hosted in Las Vegas. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidates joined fellow 2020 hopeful Beto O’Rourke in speaking of the need for gun control on Saturday following a second mass shooting in Texas in August.

"Don’t know what the motivation is, do not yet know the firearms that were used or how they acquired them, but we do know this is f**ked up. We do know that this has to stop in this country. There is no reason that we have to accept this as our fortune, as our future, as our fate, and yet functionally right now we have. ... To have a Congress that will not ... even pass universal background checks or close those loopholes that allow people to buy a firearm when they should not be able to."
— Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke at an event in Fairfax Station, Virginia
Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 1, 2019