“The devastating deaths of 17 Florida high school at the hands of a troubled teen armed with an AR-15-style rifle have brought the ever-simmering debate over gun control to a boil not seen since Sandy Hook,” usatoday.com pronounces with not-so-carefully-concealed glee. “Across the country . . .
people are wondering what can be done to prevent mass shootings from becoming the new normal. If Google searches are a fair indicator, there has been much more interest in gun control than gun rights since the shooting last Wednesday.
Wait! Google searches are not a fair indicator of public sentiment for or against additional gun control in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. At best, they’re an indication of interest in gun control.
There’s no way of knowing why users want the information, what opinion they had before the search, and whether or not the information altered their opinion on gun control after reading it.
Before last week, searches for “gun shop” topped searches for “gun control” in every state except Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Utah. Now, “gun control” beats “gun shop” as a search term in every state but Kentucky.
Again, that information is all but useless without a deeper data dive to provide context. How do we know what percentage of users searching “gun control” were doing so to oppose new gun control legislation? We don’t.
Here are the questions Americans are asking about gun control in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, according to Google Trends.
What is gun control?
What can I do about gun control?
What did Obama do for gun control?
How many shootings happened in 2018?
Why we need gun control?
Notice the missing words “most popular.” As in “Here are the most popular questions Americans are asking about gun control.” They may well be, but they may not be. Anyway . . .
What is gun control? – Gun control is any law that infringes on Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Examples include background checks, firearms registration, ammunition magazine capacity limitations and “assault weapon” bans.
What can I do about gun control? – You can oppose it by voting for politicians who support Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, and speaking out for gun rights in public forums (e.g., the comments sections underneath mainstream media posts and within your social media). You also vote with your wallet, by purchasing firearms and gun gear.
What did Obama do for gun control? – President Obama promoted gun control while paying lip service to the Second Amendment. He signed legislation allowing Americans to carry firearms on Amtrak trains — locked in a container in the luggage compartment, after giving the government-run railroad prior notice.
How many shootings happened in 2018? – The official number won’t be known until the FBI releases its Uniform Crime Reporting statistics in 2019, which include justifiable homicides (i.e., defensive gun uses).