Cyabra

How the Uvalde School Shooting Changed Public Opinion on Gun Policies

On May 24, 2022, 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos entered Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, armed with a rifle, and killed nineteen students and two teachers.

The shocking massacre caused a huge rise in related discourse on social media, mainly Twitter. Conversations revolved around the second amendment and how easily Americans buy or own a gun. Other conversations discussed Democrats vs. Republican’s viewpoints, and there were even talks of conspiracy theories and fake news regarding the shooting. Cyabra’s analysis shows how this new incident influenced public opinions regarding this very old debate.

Republicans Vs. Democrats

Cyabra ​​analyzed the online discourse on Twitter in the days before and after the shooting (May 22 – May 29) and discovered a huge rise in the use of the hashtags #GunControlNow and #GunReformNow. Those hashtags were used before the incident, but May 25, the day following the shooting, showed a 25,000% increase in the use of those hashtags (compared to May 23, the day before the shooting). 27,000 profiles were using the hashtags when tweeting, retweeting and replying.

 

Those hashtags were used almost exclusively by profiles identifying as Democrats. Compared to over 130,000 Democrat profiles, only 307 Republican profiles took part in the discourse. Not only that, but profiles using the word ‘Republicans’ actually showed a negative sentiment increase of 126% compared to the days before the incident. 

Below are the hashtags most used by Democrats and Republicans. 

The False Flag Conspiracy

A deep analysis scan detected a False Flag conspiracy, claiming that the US government was behind the shooting, as part of the Democratic party’s efforts to show the public the dangers of being able to purchase weapons without a background check. Some profiles even claimed that the incident was actually a hoax, and was completely staged. Conversations about the theory started on May 25, and reached maximum exposure on May 28, with over 3,000 profiles spreading the conspiracy and discussing it. 

During the period scanned, Over 5,300 profiles took part in conversations mentioning the False Flag conspiracy. Cyabra flagged 544 of those profiles as inauthentic – 10.2% of all scanned profiles – and identified that 34% of those inauthentic profiles were actually created in May. Below is a map of the inauthentic community, and some examples of the content they spread. 

Social Media and Its Effect on Gun Control

Following the Robb shooting incident, many US Democrats, including president Joe Biden, advocated for a federal ban on weapons. Republicans supported other solutions, such as increased security measures in and around schools, such as arming teachers. 

In the month following the incident, the US Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Gun safety laws in the new bill enforce extended background checks for gun purchasers under the age of 21, and many other gun control measures. This was the most significant federal gun reform legislation in almost 30 years, and was clearly influenced not only by recent tragic events, but also by the public demanding politicians to act in response to those very incidents. As Democrats’ posts and tweets were shared and retweeted vastly, it is safe to say that social networks played some part in pressing congress for a change, as well as exposing the idea of gun reform to a wide audience. 

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